Arming the Kurds: Implications for U.S.-Turkish Relations

June 7, 2017
12:15 pm -

Event Video

Introductory Remarks:
Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research
Speakers (from left to right): 
Dr. Aykan Erdemir, Member, FDD’s Turkey Program Board of Advisors
Amberin Zaman, Senior Correspondent, Al-Monitor
Luke Coffey, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
David Pollock, Kaufman Fellow and Director of Project Fikra, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
John Hannah, FDD Senior Counselor

Event Description

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies hosted a lunch discussion, Arming the Kurds: Implications for U.S.-Turkish Relations, which featured Luke Coffey, Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation; Aykan Erdemir, Senior Fellow at FDD; David Pollock, Kaufman Fellow and Director of Project Fikra at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Amberin Zaman, columnist at Al-Monitor and advisory board member for FDD’s Turkey Program. John Hannah, FDD Senior Counselor, moderated the discussion.

As the international effort to defeat the Islamic State (IS) nears its apex, U.S.-Turkish relations have reached an all-time low. At the heart of the problem is the role of Kurdish fighters—backed, armed, and reinforced by the United States—in the fight against IS, as well as the future of Syria’s predominantly Kurdish territories. Turkey, with its sizeable Kurdish minority and decades-long struggle against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), is embittered by U.S. cooperation with the group’s Syrian wing YPG. Washington, however, continues to see the YPG as an indispensable partner in the fight against IS. Will U.S. support for Syrian Kurds expand beyond the military campaign? How can Washington balance the conflicting demands of its Kurdish partners and an increasingly antagonistic Turkey?

Arming the Kurds: Implications for U.S.-Turkish Relations

Conversation with Luke Coffey, Aykan Erdemir,
David Pollock, and Amberin Zaman,
moderated by John Hannah

Wednesday, June 7, 2017
12:15pm – 1:30pm

Luke Coffey oversees research on nations stretching from South America to the Middle East as director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Mr. Coffey, named to the post in December 2015, is responsible for directing policy research for the Middle East, Africa, Russia and the former Soviet Union, the Western Hemisphere, and the Arctic region. He previously was Heritage’s Margaret Thatcher fellow, focusing on relations between the United States and the United Kingdom and on the role of NATO and the European Union in transatlantic and Eurasian security. Before joining the think tank’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom in 2012, Mr. Coffey had served at the UK Ministry of Defence since 2010 as senior special adviser to then-British Defence Secretary Liam Fox. Mr. Coffey, a U.S. Army veteran, was the first non-UK citizen appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron to provide advice to senior British ministers.

Dr. Aykan Erdemir is a former member of the Turkish Parliament (2011-2015) who served in the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, EU Harmonization Committee, and the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on the IT Sector and the Internet. As an outspoken defender of pluralism, minority rights, and religious freedoms in the Middle East, Dr. Erdemir has been at the forefront of the struggle against religious persecution, hate crimes, and hate speech in Turkey. He is a founding member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and a drafter of and signatory to the Oslo Charter for Freedom of Religion or Belief (2014) as well as a signatory legislator to the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism. In 2016, Dr. Erdemir was awarded the Stefanus Prize for Religious Freedom in recognition of his advocacy for minority rights and religious freedoms. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies focusing on Turkey. Dr. Erdemir is co-author of Antagonistic Tolerance: Competitive Sharing of Religious Sites and Spaces (Routledge).

John Hannah is Senior Counselor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where he brings two decades of experience at the highest levels of U.S. foreign policy. During the first term of President George W. Bush, he was Vice President Dick Cheney’s deputy national security advisor for the Middle East, where he was intimately involved in U.S. policy toward Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, the peace process, and the global war on terrorism. In President Bush’s second term, Mr. Hannah was elevated to the role of the vice president’s national security advisor. In his previous government service, Mr. Hannah worked as a senior advisor to Secretary of State Warren Christopher during the Bill Clinton administration and as a senior member of Secretary of State James Baker’s Policy Planning Staff during the presidency of George H. W. Bush.

Dr. David Pollock, the Kaufman fellow at The Washington Institute, focuses on the political dynamics of Middle East countries. He is the director of Project Fikra, a program of research, publication, and network-building designed to generate policy ideas for promoting positive change and countering the spread of extremism in the Middle East. At the forefront of this effort is Fikra Forum, a unique Arabic-English bilingual online platform that promotes exchanges between mainstream Muslims and Arab democrats and U.S. decision-makers and opinion leaders. Dr. Pollock served previously as senior advisor for the Broader Middle East at the State Department, a post he assumed in 2002. In that capacity, he provided policy advice on issues of democracy and reform in the region, with a focus on women’s rights.

Amberin Zaman is currently a columnist for the independent online Turkish news portal, Diken, and for Al Monitor Pulse of The Middle East. She serves on the board of advisors for FDD’s Turkey Program. Until May 2017, she was a Public Policy Fellow in the Middle East Program and the Global Europe Program focusing on Kurdish issues at the Wilson Center. Ms. Zaman covered Turkey and regional conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Azerbaijan for The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Voice of America and The Daily Telegraph before becoming The Economist‘s Turkey correspondent (1999-2015).

This event was made possible through a grant from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.


Kurds Turkey