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The Kurdish Quasi-State

Auteur :
Éditeur : Syracuse University Date & Lieu : 2010, New York
Préface : Pages : 158
Traduction : ISBN : 978-0-8156-3217-7
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 150x230 mm
Code FIKP : Liv. Eng. Nat. Kur. N°4647Thème : Politique

Table des Matières Introduction Identité PDF
The Kurdish Quasi-State

The Kurdish Quasi-State

Denise Natali

Syracuse University

“The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is not just one of the most important developments in the Middle East, but is also an important experiment in state building. Natali, who has been able to observe the evolution of the KRG from its inception, provides a sophisticated analytical approach to its institutionalization, shortcomings, and successes. Changing international boundaries will make this book a must for scholars working on similar cases.”
Henri J. Barkey, editor of Reluctant Neighbor: Turkeys Role in the Middle East

“Dr. Natali offers an insightful, empathetic, and comprehensive analysis of political, social, and economic change that has occurred in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) since 1991, but especially after 2003. Drawing upon a wide variety of source materials, including extensive interviews in the KRG, Natali presents the most comprehensive analysis to date of the political and economic change that has transformed the Kurds from a marginal to a central player in post-2003 Iraqi politics.”
Eric Davis, author of Memories of State: Politics, History, and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq

Denise Natali is Research Centers director and associate professor at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimania. She is the author of numerous publications on Kurdish nationalism, politics, and identity, including The Kurds and the State: Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran (Syracuse University Press, 2005). Dr. Natali also has worked in disaster relief and post-conflict reconstruction programs in Washington, D.C.; Peshwar, Pakistan; and post-Gulf War Iraqi Kurdistan.



When I first traveled to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in 1992 it was to analyze the controversial election outcomes that created the first Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Socioeconomic conditions at that time were as unstable as the newly created parliament. There was no food in the markets, no salaries for civil servants, and no facilities in which to resettle the hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region. The Kurdish Peshmerga (militia) had just descended from its mountain strongholds after decades of fighting against the central government and rival Kurdish parties. A culture of Kalashnikovs still permeated the streets and bazaars.

No one would have imagined back then that the isolated and unstable Kurdistan Region would have become one of the most viable areas of the country. Nor could it have been realistically envisioned that the once unrecognized KRG would have assumed a key role in keeping Iraq together and ensuring regional stability. Had the Kurdish north remained in the civil war that shook the region from 1994 to 1998, then the contemporary political and economic situation probably would have been easier to explain.

Most perplexing are the changes that have occurred in the region and the contradictions they pose to popular discourses about an independent and highly autonomous Kurdistan. Many people saw—and still see—the creation of a safe haven and subsequent development processes as a precursor to Kurdish statehood. They interpreted the “booming” post-Saddam Kurdistan Region as one that would eventually become self-sustaining and not need to remain attached to the dysfunctional Iraqi state. Underlying this view is the assumption that Kurdish state building is a linear process, a function of unchanging and deep-rooted nationalist sentiment, or causally related to the weak Iraqi central government.

This image of Kurdish nationalism and state building comes into question, however, when focusing on the political economy of post-conflict regions and the realities of quasi-state survival. In post-Saddam Iraq, where social, economic, and political transformations have given the KRG new rights, recognition, and revenues, the Kurdish nationalist agenda coincides with the overriding need for development and stability. The Kurds must now choose between electricity and independence, international legitimacy and pan-Kurdish nationalism, and external patronage and extended territorial claims. Their political decisions are no longer largely driven by nationalist fervor, but by how to keep borders to their landlocked region continuously open and protected, how to attract international investment, and how to pacify the increasingly disgruntled local populations demanding basic services and good governance.

The more I heard and read about “potential Kurdish statehood,” the more I wanted to explain the emergence and sustainability of the Kurdish quasi-state over time. Rooted in wishful thinking or misplaced fear, and linked to outdated stereotypes and nationalist jargon, the independent statehood discourse discounted the important changes that had occurred in the region and their impact on promoting or constraining stability. Not surprisingly, misunderstandings about the Kurdish quasi-state and its place in Iraq festered.

While acknowledging historical legacies and ethno-nationalist sentiment that have shaped the Kurdistan Region over time, this book focuses on external factors, and particularly on foreign aid, as providing the necessary foundation to create and sustain Kurdish quasi-statehood. Part of this influence certainly has been negative. During my tenure as information officer for the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) in Iraqi Kurdistan during the early 1990s, I saw the unintentional consequences of foreign aid on the local political economy: imbalances in the distribution of resources, power struggles between rival groups, competition for revenues, and civil war. In many cases the most needy never even received aid, and if they did, it was only temporarily, before they sold their goods in the bazaar. Still, the generous nature of external aid to the Kurdistan Region over time created numerous opportunity structures that encouraged stability and set the groundwork for political and economic development. Had foreign assistance not been continuously available to willing aid recipients, the postwar trajectory of the Kurdistan Region may have had a very different outcome.

The focus on the role of external aid conies at a time of criticisms of U.S. intervention in Iraq and debates about U.S. troop withdrawal from the country. By taking a detailed and deep look at the spoils of peace in the Kurdish north, this book challenges the notion of the futility of U.S. intervention and shows some of the positive influences foreign assistance has had on the transition to peace. External aid not only has encouraged the development and relative stability of the Kurdish quasi-state, but also has helped assure that it remains a part of Iraq.

I would like to thank the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TAARI) for its financial support of this project from a 2005-6 research grant award. I also thank Exeter University’s Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies, the University of Salahaddin, and the University of Kurdistan (UKH) in Arbil for providing administrative and research support while I was researching and writing this book in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in 2005-2009. Many students and young people willingly assisted me inside and outside the classroom with their open ideas, enthusiasm, and insights. I am most appreciative to Namo Kalary, Hemin Hussein, Mohammed Ali Bapir, Hakim Qadir Taha Herany, Hardy Shukir, Tawfiq Rahman, Singar Musa, and Husam Algilly for their comprehensive research assistance. I thank numerous friends and colleagues, including Mohammed Towfiq, Hawre Riwandizi, Nariman Ali, and Ralph Gonzales for offering their generous time to discuss politics and security and economic issues, and for offering me access to necessary contacts and information networks.

Edward Luttwak, Ian Lustick, Eric Davis, Henri Barkey, Zafer Yoruk, Francis Owtram, and two anonymous reviewers made important comments and critiques of different proposals, chapters, and drafts of the manuscript. Participants at the Durham University’s Department of Government and International Affairs Conference on the Politics of Virtual States and the National Defense University’s Conference on Iraqi Elections offered invaluable insights and suggestions that improved the content and argument of the book.

I thank the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) and Routledge (Taylor and Francis Group) for permission to reprint parts of earlier publications from which sections of this book have been drawn.

Most important, I thank my daughter, Héline, for her patience and support during this research project, which involved numerous shuttles from Paris to Arbil and extended absences that have become part of ordinary family life.

Héline, who was only five when she first went with me on the first commercial flight from Europe to the Kurdistan Region, willingly rode the local buses and taxis, patiently sat through dozens of interviews, travelled to the villages, meandered through the bazaars with me, and learned Kurdish and some Arabic along the way. I could not have written this book without her or the inspiration she gave me during the process.


Aiding Quasi-States

Since the 1990 Persian Gulf War, the political economy of Iraq has been marked by a breakdown of state authority, criminality, and socioeconomic deterioration. War entrepreneurs circumvented the internationally imposed sanctions regime (UNSCR 687) by instrumentalizing humanitarian aid and creating new forms of wealth, inequalities, and patronage (Barnett, Eggleston, and Webber 2003; Looney 2003a, 2; Graham-Brown 2002, 277-78; Griffiths 1999, 68; Pugh 2002; Jean 1996, 579-89). Predation continued after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the Ba’athist government in 2003, further reducing the possibilities of a transition to sustainable peace. Yet, despite the rent-seeking behavior pervasive in postwar Iraq, transition patterns have varied across the country. Whereas the southern and central governorates have become mired in civil war and economic stagnation, the Kurdish north, historically one of Iraq’s most unstable and underdeveloped areas, has experienced relative stability and certain levels of development. What explains the transition path in Iraqi Kurdistan, what is the nature of the transformations, and how has it influenced the relationship between the Kurdistan Region' and the central government?

1. The Kurdistan Region includes those territories administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the governorates of Suleymaniya, Dohuk, and Arbil. Discussions between the KRG and the Iraqi central government continue to decide jurisdiction of disputed territories inside the present-day governorates of Kirkuk, Ninevah (Mosul), Diyala, and Wasit (Kut). They are “disputed” because they have been subjected to changes in internal boundaries, administrative units, resources, and demographics as part of the central government’s larger Arabization program.


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