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Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan (1991-2014) from clientelism to interdependence: evolution of fluctuating relations in light of identity, security, economy and external interventions

SALEH, MUHAMMAD,MAHMOOD (2021) Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan (1991-2014) from clientelism to interdependence: evolution of fluctuating relations in light of identity, security, economy and external interventions. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 23 February 2024.


In the year 1991, under the air protection of the American-led coalition a de facto Kurdish entity emerged in Iraqi Kurdistan. Since then Iraqi Kurds have administered and represented their region and have entered into relations with their neighbours and the world. This research explores the dynamics of the emergent relations between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan in the 1991-2014 period with the aim of understanding the forces that have shaped the relations in the form of identity, security, economy and external interventions. During this period Iraqi Kurdistan has proved to be an emergent actor, evolving from a de facto region ruled by warring parties into a constitutionally recognised de jure region represented by Kurdistan Regional Government.
This research claims that identity, security, economy and external interventions have persistently influenced the relations. However, the extent of the influence of each factor has varied throughout the period with obvious impacts on the relations. In the 1991-2008 period Kemalism, an identity that regards Kurdish nationalism as an existential security threat, dominated Turkish state. Hence, in this period Turkey avoided recognising Iraqi Kurdistan and therefore the informal relations were defined in relation with PKK’s security threat and hence security factor dominated the nature of the relations. However, unlike the 1991-1998 period that Turkey had a free hand in conducting military raids into Northern Iraq, in the 1998-2008 era following the American brokered 1998 Washington Agreement, external interventions in the form of American presence and supremacy eclipsed the relations, ended the Turkish free hand in conducting cross border operations and defined the permissible courses of actions to be taken both by Turkey and Iraqi Kurds in the relations. Identity shift in Ankara and ascendance of Neo-Ottomanism paved the way for emergence of formal political and economic relations between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan in 2008-2014 period that was dominated by the economy factor, as bilateral trade, energy links and investment reached their peak and facilitated improvements in political relations.
In terms of locating this research within international relations theories, this research claims a single theory cannot analyse the relations effectively and hence applies the analytic eclecticism approach to explain the complexities and anomalies in the relations theoretically. Hence, a mixture of constructivism and patron-clientelism, constructivism and realism, and constructivism and interdependence are selected to explain the three eras, namely 1991-1998, 1998-2008, and 2008-2014 in the relations respectively.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Iraqi Kurdistan; Kurdistan Region; Kurdistan Region-Iraq; Turkey; Kurds; Kurd; Kurdistan; Kurdish; Turkey; Kemalism; nationalism; political economy; Middle East; Iraq; Iran; international relations; KRG; KDP; PUK; CHP; AKP; MHP;
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:24 Feb 2021 09:11

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