The operational decision made by the Assad regime in mid-July 2012 to withdraw the majority of its forces from Syria’s Kurdish areas effectively ceded control of those territories to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). The PYD dominates its Syrian Kurdish political rivals, such as the Kurdish National Council (KNC), by virtue of its control over most Syrian Kurdish militias, significant popular support, and its effective organization. It is also a close affiliate of the insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey, which exacerbates Turkish concerns over Syrian border control. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), based in Iraq, is also invested in the political future of Syrian Kurds. Thus, the activities and decisions of the PYD with respect to the Syrian civil war will affect the region broadly. This backgrounder examines the PYD within the context of regional Kurdish politics in order to forecast their likely course as the Syrian civil war unfolds.
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