Between Determination and Pragmatism: Justification for, and odds against, a Kurdish State in Northern Iraq
thesisposted on 15.01.2018, 15:27 by Kamaran Murad
The aim of this thesis is to examine the arguments in support of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to become an internationally recognised nation state. The thesis argues the case for the KRG becoming a nation state in two areas. First it argues that the Kurds constitute a distinct nation. This argument is made on the basis of a Kurdish ethnic identity stretching back millennia and inextricably linked to the territory in Northern Iraq currently under the administration of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The repression and rights violations suffered by Kurds at the hands of past Iraqi regimes are also evaluated in their effects on Kurdish people’s perception of themselves as perennial victims of the Iraqi state as a political project. The emancipatory significance of Kurdish nationalism is thus seen to derive from their experience as victims of a repressive state and the injustice Kurds suffered in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The Kurds, having been promised autonomy after the First World War, were then denied it and found themselves spread across a number of nation-states in the Middle East (Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran) in which they were consistently persecuted. This strengthened Kurdish self-identity and culture, and their desire to have a nation state of their own. The second argument is made that on the basis of international law the Kurds and the KRG have a case for becoming internationally recognised state. This is made on two bases: the KRG is a fully functioning de facto state, with an administration, an armed forces and security. The KRG thus satisfies the criterion of Statehood provided in the Montevideo Convention. The KRG has also proved with its political and economic structures and institutions that it is internally capable of functioning as a viable state within the international political system. The other legal argument for a Kurdish independent state is made on the basis of Kurdish people’s past genocidal experience and the possibility of the Iraqi state responding with violence to a future Kurdish unilateral declaration of independence. These, it is argued, may enable the KRG to plead for recognition as a state on a sui generis basis. The thesis, however, acknowledges the odds against a future Kurdish state. This issue is discussed with reference to the dominant role of realpolitik in the recognition of states, and also with regard to how an independent Kurdish state may affect the interests of some powerful states in the international political system.