Chatham House: Independent thinking on international affairs

International Affairs

Wrestling with the Integrity of a Nation: the Disputed Internal Boundaries in Iraq

Peter Bartu, November 2010

The disputed internal boundaries in northern Iraq between the Kurds and the Arabs have been a persistent fault-line in the state's history and have rapidly emerged as a core dispute since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The Kurds underwrote, more than any other constituency, the democratic project in the new Iraq and contrived an ambitious constitutional route through Article 140 to place Kirkuk and other disputed areas under the administration of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) by December 2007. Article 140 was designed to resolve the issue in the Kurds favour once and for all, to circumvent yet another tedious negotiation round with the Arabs and to quarantine the Kurdish project from regional interference, particularly Turkey. On all three counts the strategy failed.

However, if a negotiating framework were to emerge the contours of a 'deal' have begun to crystallize and there is scope to move from management of the issue to resolution. Answers to the questions of when and how will depend on the shape of the complete package, the new government constellation and the extent that Turkey and Iran reveal themselves in the political marketplace.

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