, Volume 90, Number 6

Fred H. Lawson

Recent trends in the Syrian civil war have caused important shifts in alignment among neighbouring states. The conflict has exhibited a sharp turn towards ethno-sectarian violence, fighting among rival factions of the opposition and loss of central command over peripheral districts. In conjunction with the rise of the radical Islamist movement called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, these developments precipitated a raging, multisided battle that spread across Syria’s northeastern provinces, and sparked renewed sectarian conflict inside Turkey and Iraq. Turkey and Iran responded to the growing ethno-sectarianization of the civil war by taking steps to conciliate the largely autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), as well as one another. Rapprochement with the KRG alienated Turkey and Iran from Iraq, prompting Iraqi officials to step up military operations along the Syrian frontier. These moves set the stage for large-scale intervention in Iraq by ISIL, which further weakened Iraq’s positon in regional affairs. The resulting reconfiguration of relations accompanied a marked increase in belligerence by non-state actors, most notably the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which buttressed Turkey’s newfound ties to the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iran.

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