Iraqi Kurdistan in Middle Eastern Politics

Edited by Alex Danilovich (Rutledge 2017)

Reviewed by Melih Yıldız

The Kurds have gained significant power in Iraq, especially in the past thirty years. Iraqi Kurdistan in Middle Eastern Politics, edited by Alex Danilovich, analyzes the effects of Iraqi Kurds on the foreign policies of some regional and global powers. In the book, besides the effects of Iraqi Kurds on the foreign policies of the Middle Eastern countries, the effects of the USA on the Middle Eastern policies are also discussed. The book claims to explain how Iraqi Kurds have become a new and important power in Middle Eastern politics. Explaining the historical background of Kurdish nationalism in the book (Chapter 1) has made it easier to evaluate the impact of Kurds on Middle Eastern politics in the historical process. In addition, explaining the social, cultural and economic conditions of Iraqi Kurds (Chapter 3) made it easier to understand the impact of the Kurds on the Middle Eastern policies. The fact that the book was published in recent years (2017) and therefore includes the latest developments in the Middle East increases the importance of the book.

General features will be evaluated before entering the content of the book. Firstly, the book is not in a format that follows historical chronology. Chapters of the book consist of certain topics. For this reason, the connection between the chapters is very limited. Since the book is written in an academic language by Academics, the audience it addresses is mainly academics and students. However, it is a book that can be easily read for those who want to learn about the subject because it contains basic information and is easy to read. The authors of the book used a large bibliography. There are a limited number of figures in certain chapters of the book. The index part of the book is very important for researchers. There is a six-page index in this book.

The book consists of two main parts with eight chapters. The first part Soul Searching consists of four chapters that provide information about the historical background of Kurds and Kurdish nationalism, the main features of the Iraqi federal system, the social, cultural and economic characteristics of Iraqi Kurds, and Erbil, an important city for Iraqi Kurds. The second part Iraqi Kurdistan in Middle Eastern Politics consists of four chapters. These chapters discuss subjects like Turkey relations with Iraqi Kurds, Iraqi Kurds place in US foreign policy.

Chapter 1: Learning from history: Kurdish nationalism and state building efforts, is written by Anwar An aid explains the nature and origins of Kurdish nationalism and why attempts to establish a state have failed in the past. The author claims that the Kurds have missed important opportunities in the process of establishing a state throughout history. In addition to, the author claims that the deep political changes in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War and the changes in the structure of the Middle East after the Arab Spring provided the favorable conditions for the establishment of a new state. The author also claims that the economic impact of oil in Northern Iraq and the effective fight of the Kurdish region against ISIS bring Iraqi Kurds closer to independence.

Chapter 2: New horizons: Iraqi federalism, is written by Alex Danilovich is about the main features of the Iraqi federal system. The author claims that federalism gives the Kurds an important opportunity to establish their own state.

Chapter 3: Rebels without a cause? A historicist analysis of Iraqi Kurdistan’s current political and economic development and prospects for independence is written by Nigel M. Greaves. The Author’s main argument well reflected in the chapter’s title, questions the rationality of Kurdish plans to acquire an ethnic state in the twenty-first century, as Kurdistan’s politics is rooted in pre-modern traditional practices where they appear to remain today.

Chapter 4: Erecting buildings, erecting a state: Public perception of Kurdish statehood is written by Umut Kuruuzum. This chapter results from an anthropological field study conducted in Erbil in 2015. The author attempted to look into Kurdish ordinary citizens’ attitude towards the elites’ plans to break away from the Iraqi federation and build a sovereign Kurdish state. The author takes the reader right to where the action unfolds, introduces his interlocutors and engages in casual conversations with ordinary citizens in the streets of Erbil.

Chapter 5: Oil, the Kurds and the drive for independence: an ace in the hole or joker in the pack? is written by Francis Owtram. This chapter explores the role that oil resources have played in Iraqi Kurdistan’s putative quest for state independence. Whether rich oil resources are an advantage or a disadvantage for the Kurds is discussed.

Chapter 6: Kurdistan’s independence and the international system of sovereign states, is written by Ryan D. Griffiths. The author attempts to offer a systematic explanation of the Dynamics of recognition over various historical periods and how they have varied regionally, projecting his reflections onto the case of Iraqi Kurdistan. The author offers to theorize the set of sovereign states as a club, one whose membership has varied across time and space. He also discusses the manner in which admittance to the club has been managed through history and geography.

Chapter 7: Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdistan Federal Region: Bonds of friendship, is written by Sara Salahaddin Mustafa and Sardar Aziz. This chapter discusses the development process of relations between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds. Many Kurds live in Turkey. Northern Iraq has an important place in Turkey’s energy policies. For these reasons, relations with Iraqi Kurds are important for Turkish policies.

Chapter 8: The Kurdish issue on the USA foreign policy agenda is written by Paula Pineda. This chapter focuses on the USA’s increasing influence in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War and the reflections of its relations with Iraqi Kurds on US foreign policies.

When the content of the book is examined, it can be said that there are some deficiencies between the title of the book and its content. Turkey’s relations with Iraqi Kurds have been examined in detail in the book. However, it may be considered as a deficiency to give a limited place to the relations of other countries where many Kurds live with Iraqi Kurds. Likewise, the relationship of America, which is a great power, with Iraqi Kurds has been examined in detail. However, the level of relations of other great powers with Iraqi Kurds was not addressed.