The author would like to thank Chatham House and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) for supporting elements of the research that underpins this article, particularly through the grant ‘Iraq on the regional and international stage’, USIP-232-11F (9880). The author is also grateful to Professor Stefan Wolff for commenting on earlier drafts.
The unravelling of the post-First World War state system? The Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the transformation of the Middle East
Version of Record online: 11 MAR 2013
© 2013 The Author(s). International Affairs © 2013 The Royal Institute of International Affairs.
Special Issue: The Middle East ten years after the invasion of Iraq
Volume 89, Issue 2, pages 259–282, March 2013
How to Cite
STANSFIELD, G. (2013), The unravelling of the post-First World War state system? The Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the transformation of the Middle East. International Affairs, 89: 259–282. doi: 10.1111/1468-2346.12017
- Issue online: 11 MAR 2013
- Version of Record online: 11 MAR 2013
Ten years after regime change in Iraq, the Kurdistan Region has emerged as a transformative force in the international affairs of the Middle East. The Kurds have moved to being architects of the new Iraqi state, but have thereby forced an ideational contest between them—as visionaries of a decentralized Iraq—and successive Iraqi governments that favour a centralized authority structure. In addition to this first set of developments, the prominence of the Kurds is also explained by two additional sets of issues. The second concerns the interplay of federalism in Iraq and the management of the country's oil and gas reserves. Kurdistan's expansion of its hydrocarbons industry has been met with opposition from Baghdad that has furthered the polarization and enmity between the two sides. The third issue, which serves to make concrete the gains made by the Kurds, concerns regional geopolitical developments. For the first time in a century, the nationalist interests of the Kurds in Iraq are compatible with the sectarian interests of Turkey and Sunni Arab states. These three issues (domestic development, economic advancement and regional geopolitics) come together to explain the Kurdistan Region's agency in a rapidly transforming regional complex and raise the possibility of an independent Republic of Kurdistan emerging in the near future as an idea that is no longer regarded as impossible.