The Future of Iraq’s Relations with Its Kurdish Region

By Michael M. Gunter
Submitted to Session P2599 (Future Prospects for the Kurds, 2011 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
The Iraqi Kurds, now not only possess their most powerful regional government since the creation of Iraq following World War I (the Kurdistan Regional Government or KRG), but also play a very prominent role in the Iraqi government in Baghdad including the posts of president (Jalal Talabani), foreign minister (Hoshyar Zebari), and several other cabinet positions. After a great deal of wrangling, the Kurds managed to maintain their strong position in al-Maliki’s new Baghdad government finally cobbled together in December 2010. This dual governmental role stood in mark contrast to the situation that existed before the events of 1991 and 2003, when the Kurds were treated as second class citizens and worse. The ultimate question, of course, is for how long this unique Kurdish position of strength will last. Many Arabs still resent the Kurdish claims to autonomy as a challenge to the Arab patrimony and a federal state for the Iraqi Kurds within Iraq as simply a prelude to secession that was forced upon the Arabs at a moment of temporary weakness following the war in 2003. When will the Iraqi Arabs get their act together and start trying to reduce the Kurds again? This paper will analyze this developing situation and tentatively conclude that the two sides are most likely to continue to coexist in a troublesome but peaceful relationship.