Despite the KRG’s noteworthy accomplishments over the last 30 years, its unrelenting pursuit of economic independence has only helped to deepen internal conflicts and a corrupt system of government while shifting its reliance from Iraq to Turkey and from foreign assistance to oil income. The power balance that formerly favored the KRG is now changing in favor of Baghdad as Kurdish divisions widen and security in the rest of Iraq improves. Since the vote, disagreements have occurred between the ‘Regional States’ leaders on their positions in Iraq and strategies for reviving the region’s struggling oil industry.
As an oppressed ethnic minority, the Kurds in Iraq have always felt fundamental suffering as they fight for autonomy. By preserving Kurdish rights, the rulers of Kurdistan won acceptance. Nevertheless, this revolutionary image was supplanted with democratic legitimacy during the first Gulf War and the 1992 elections. The Kurdistan Regional Government was established as a consequence of the elections, which also officially ushered in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party as political parties. Since that time, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), both of which are currently led by members of their second and third generations, to be specific, have each been closely linked to a particular family.
In fact, between 2004 and 2014, the KRG successfully tapped into post-invasion prospects to achieve economic development. The capital, Erbil, had its area more than double due to the development boom at that time. According to the KRG, ethnic cleansing’s “Anfal campaign” in 1988 devastated 65 percent of Kurdistan’s rural districts.
Two international airports were developed by the KRG in Sulaymaniyah and Erbil by 2005, deregulating the area’s isolation and allowing it to trade with the rest of the globe. The Iraqi government did not start enforcing this rule for foreign travelers until 2021.
Two international airports were developed by the KRG in Sulaymaniyah and Erbil by 2005, deregulating the area’s isolation and allowing it to trade with the rest of the globe. The Iraqi government did not start enforcing this rule for foreign travelers until 2021. Public employment programs in their entirety have decreased unemployment, but foreign workers have mostly filled the skilled labor need. Additionally, the Investment Law of 2006, which gave investors benefits including property ownership, tax exemptions, and profit repatriation, assisted the KRG in luring significant amounts of local and international funding. Over 3,000 international businesses are now registered in the area. The KRG is home to 42 consulates and maintains 14 representative offices across the globe.
A significant regional commerce route and destination, Iraqi Kurdistan has also benefited from its strategic position and stability. The “regional government’s” top commercial partner is Turkey, which shares its only land border with Iraq with the “Kurdistan region.” About $2.5 billion in commerce was conducted between Turkey and “Iraqi Kurdistan” in 2017, accounting for nearly one-third of Ankara’s overall trade with Iraq. Likewise, Iraqi Kurdistan receives a third of Iran’s estimated $2.4 billion in annual imports to Iraq. Furthermore, the KRG-controlled border crossings are used by 50% of Iran’s exports to Iraq.
The weakness of the political parties in the area has led to disputes between the two governing dynasties in Iraqi Kurdistan in recent years. Jalal Talabani, the founder of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, passed away in 2017, and his oldest son and nephew jointly took over the party’s leadership. The cousins Pavel and Lahore Talabani fought in 2021, and the first one was able to depose the second. These internal conflicts reveal systemic flaws and a deterioration of democracy in the Kurdistan Region.
The “regional government’s” institutions were ineffective and totally equipped to handle the “economic tsunami” that started in 2014. A budget was last authorized by the “Kurdistan Region” parliament in 2012.
For instance, the “regional government’s” institutions were ineffective and totally equipped to handle the “economic tsunami” that started in 2014. A budget was last authorized by the “Kurdistan Region” parliament in 2012. Out-of-control inflation drove employment from the private sector into the public sector. By 2017, the KRG was the biggest employer in Kurdistan, paying $750 million a month to employ half of the labor force or over 1.4 million people. While the embryonic private sector is dependent on holding businesses owned or controlled by members of the two governing families of Kurdistan, corruption and incompetence have warped employment in the public sector, resulting in thousands of ghost workers, multiple positions, pensions, and unjustified retirees. The KRG’s energy industry grew more secretive and unaccountable in order to avoid showing Baghdad its cards.
The Peshmerga forces have a high level of respect and influence and have maintained strong public and political support, particularly since they joined the coalition headed by the US to fight ISIS. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s enormous political split, however, diminished the importance of the “Kurdistan region” as an ally of the United States and curtailed Kurdish influence in Baghdad. The number of Peshmerga combatants is still being determined with any degree of accuracy, although it is assumed to be between 160,000 and twice that amount. Masrour Barzani, the regional prime minister, stated that the Peshmerga forces had more generals than the American or Chinese armies. Since the beginning of the fight against ISIS, the US has paid the “Peshmerga” groups wages and given training in return for a commitment to bring them together under the control of the “Kurdistan Regional Government” rather than the two dominant parties. However, the PMF has signaled that it supports the KDP and PUK in their refusal to give up control of their units.
The decades of war, genocide, and neglect, post-invasion Kurdish politics have returned, but they have not been able to resolve long-standing internal conflicts. The most established institutions in the area that may sustain an independent Kurdistan are still the economy and the Peshmerga forces.
Despite the persistent narrative of the complaints and victimization of Iraqi Kurds, they have exercised tremendous authority and freedom of choice throughout the last three decades. The decades of war, genocide, and neglect, post-invasion Kurdish politics have returned, but they have not been able to resolve long-standing internal conflicts. The most established institutions in the area that may sustain an independent Kurdistan are still the economy and the Peshmerga forces. The power balance that formerly favored the KRG is changing in favor of Baghdad as Kurdish divides widen and the security situation in the rest of Iraq improves. Since the vote, there have been disagreements among “regional government” officials on visions for their involvement in Iraq and strategies for reviving the region’s struggling oil industry. This raises the question of whether the Kurdish economy should continue to rely on international assistance, oil, and budget transfers from Baghdad or if it can develop a robust economy via reform and diversification.
Research Scholar and Academic; Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Pisa, Italy. Dr. Usman has participated in various national and international conferences and published 30 research articles in international journals.