As the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) prepares to open a summit this week in Wales, at least two international issues will be front and center in the effort to craft strategic vision for the alliance in the years ahead. Russian aggression and intervention in Ukraine and the battle against the onslaught of the Islamic State in northern Iraq present two very unique, separate, and challenging problems for the leaders of the Atlantic Alliance.

These issues make for a particularly interesting (and important) meeting this week for NATO leaders. In particular, the war in Syria and Northern Iraq will be of great consequence to alliance leaders in the effort to plan strategy for tackling regional issues.

The entangling alliances that threaten to pull regional powers into the quickly intensifying war in Northern Iraq are an interesting problem for NATO. The Kurdish military elements and militias comprising the tip of the spear in the battle against IS present an interesting and potentially far-reaching strategic problem for NATO.

Turkey, a member-state of the Atlantic Alliance and a rising power in the region, represents NATO’s most direct investment in the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Should the Kurds eventually surmount the nearly impossible odds laid out before them in their battle against IS, the consequences could inspire bristling in Ankara.

The direct participation of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in the conflict places the Turkish government in a precarious position. Working against the PKK as they support Kurdish regulars against the onrushing IS incursion into Iraq would ostensibly place Ankara in direct opposition to American policy in pursuing a rollback of IS out of areas such as Mosul. This would also place two NATO states at odds with one another on an issue of vital international concern.

The Kurdish movement for an independent state and staunch Turkish opposition to such an establishment has been a hot button issue in the region for decades. However, pressure from other NATO member governments and the strategic value in eroding the growing power of IS may serve to create at least a temporary, if only tacit, alliance between the two. Turkish government leaders apparently have recognized the value in at least temporarily appearing to reach out to PKK leaders:

The goal of an independent state no longer seems to be an issue. Now it is about increased autonomy and rights for Kurds in their settlement areas. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced as he took office, that the peace process with the Kurdish minorities would be taken up again.

On Monday, September 1, the Turkish government and the PKK leadership began such discussions.