Kurdistan Region in International Affairs

Friday, 26 May 2017 09:33
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by Idrees Mohammed*
EPOS Insights


New states were established in the Middle East as a result of the dismantlement of Ottoman Empire. The Kurds in the region were distributed among regional states instead of having a unified Kurdistan. The oil-rich regions inhabited by the Kurds were reckoned necessary for a successful Iraqi state as well as British interests. The Iraqi state was established and the Kurds became part of it.

Relations between Iraqi consequent governments and the Kurds were volatile. The Kurds have struggled to secure their rights in Iraq. Central governments in Baghdad answered the Kurdish struggle with a cruel manner. While there were sporadic periods of calmness, the general atmosphere was always tense. When Iraqi governments were weak, they made ventures to the Kurds; while, when theywere strong, theyresorted to hard politics. The distressing Kurdish experiences with Iraqi governments, including the genocide, led to create a strategic culture of insecurity among the Kurds.

The first Gulf war dramatically changed the political landscape in Iraq. After Iraq’s venture to Kuwait, a large international coalition was created to force Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. The Kurds staged an uprising that was cruelly quelled down by the Iraqi government and led to a large influx of the Kurds seeking refugees in Iran and Turkey. A UN resolutionwas issued and safe havens were created for the Kurds in order to return. The Kurds held elections in 1992 and established a parliament, a government, and a presidency. A Kurdish de facto state in Iraq has since started to emerge.

As if the development of the Kurdish status in Iraq is related to wars. In the aftermath of the liberation of Iraq in 2003, the Kurdish de facto state was further consolidated. Iraq’s new constitution recognizes Kurdistan Region asa federalunit and envisions significant competences bestowed to regions such as the right to export oil. Significantly, the constitution sets the legal foundations for the practice of para-diplomacy by the federal region.

Kurdistan Region has established domestic institutions for para-diplomacy and opened representative offices abroad in order to achieve certain objectives. There are also dozens of consulates from different geographic areas, including the biggest American consulate in the world, in the region. The involvement in international affairs by Kurdistan Region takes into question the realists’ view that states are the only units in world politics.

The debate on actors in international affairs is a significant one. Scholars continue to question who the actors are. Three distinct school of thoughts can be referred to: a group of scholars argues that states are the main actors in world politics; a second group calls for a pluralist interpretation of world politics as other actors appear besides states; a third group of scholars look at the involvement in international affairs by sub-national governments that are neither state nor non-state actors. As a federated region, Kurdistan Region can be situated among the third category of actors though it is an active de facto state.

A group of characteristics make Kurdistan Region an attracted factor in states’ strategy towards the Middle East. Foreign policy formulation is driven by some core foundations such as those of realists, constructivists, and liberalists. The geographic, economic, and ethnic characteristics of Kurdistan Regionmake it significant in international affairs.Kurdistan Region locates in a region where interests of many states, among them superpowers, intersect. It cuts across communication lines between different peoples and may function as a corridor between them. Kurdistan Region sets on huge amounts of oil and gas and can function as a transit region establishing south-north and east-west bridges. Moreover, there is a division in the Middle East along the identity lines. The Kurds in Iraq, being predominantly Sunnis, are an important force in the ethnic and religious balances in the region.

Kurdistan Region has for decades involved in para-diplomacy by establishing institution and using instruments in order to achieve certain goals. A trio of core characteristics of Kurdistan Region, that is, geographic, economic and ethnic,facilitatesthe practice of para-diplomacy. States are not the only actors in international affairs; non-state actors and sub-state actors also involve in international affairs. Kurdistan Region, as a de facto state, also involves in world politics;it has become an actor.

* Idrees Mohammed is a PhD candidate at University of Erfurt, Germany. He was a former lecturer in International Relations at University of Duhok, Kurdistan Region


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect EPOS WorldView’s editorial policy

Last modified on Friday, 26 May 2017 09:46
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