The Future of the Iraqi Kurds
In February 2008, a four-member Washington Institute delegation visited the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq on a fact-finding mission. The trip proved helpful in analyzing the KRG’s political and economic situation, both domestically and internationally. Following the trip, the delegation identified seven benchmarks for U.S. policymakers and other actors looking to assess the KRG’s prospects:
relations with the United States
relations with the rest of Iraq
relations with Turkey, Syria, and Iran
This Policy Focus includes detailed reports on each of these benchmarks. In chapter 1, Institute visiting fellow David Pollock reports on political freedoms, corruption, and economic development in the KRG. In chapter 2, senior fellow Soner Cagaptay reports on the KRG’s ties to the United States, the rest of Iraq, and Iraq’s neighbors. In the next two chapters, visiting Lafer international fellow Michael Knights analyzes the security benchmark, while Schusterman Young scholar Audrey Flake writes on the oil issue, providing a fuller view of the KRG’s Iraqi and U.S. ties.
Taken together, these trip reports highlight the important implications that the KRG’s internal and external situation hold for U.S. policy. The authors present new findings on a variety of issues, such as the KRG’s financial dependence on Baghdad—a factor that puts the lie to talk of Iraqi Kurdish independence. The report also sheds light on the KRG’s “love-hate relationship” with Iran as well as its policy of eschewing military action against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). On the latter point, the authors show how the presence of PKK bases inside the KRG and their use as launch points for terrorist attacks into Turkey continue to haunt Turkish-KRG and Turkish-Iraqi relations alike. Last but not least, this Policy Focus presents important findings on the KRG’s internal political stability and economic situation, debunking assumptions that its markets are booming or that it enjoys billions of dollars in Turkish investment.