The Challenges of Nation-Building in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq
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This thesis examines the two main challenges that face the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) in its bid or for statehood– the internal issue of corruption and governance and the external issue of disputed territories with Iraq and the interplay between these two issues. This thesis uses a within case study by examining and synthesizing several aspects of the Kurdish question in Iraq at three analytical levels: macro, meso, and micro. At the macro level, it examines the institutional and geopolitical factors in the establishment of the KRI. These include the KRI's historical development, the emergence of oil and gas as factors in governance in the KRI – on the one hand – and its geopolitical dimension and the interaction between the two – on the other. Also, at the macro level, it examines the territorial disputes between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central Iraqi government in Baghdad and the geopolitical implications of this territorial dispute. At the meso level, it analyzes patronage and clientelism in its socio-economic and cultural context. At the micro-level, it explores the motivation of individual actors within the cultural, political, and economic context of the KRI. For the KRI to remain viable as a semi-autonomous region, and achieve statehood, it must address institutional reform and resolve the territorial dispute with Baghdad, which is contingent on its ability to improve governance and reduce corruption in the KRI. Addressing these two interrelated issues are crucial for the security, survival, and prospects of statehood for the KRI. Informed by the literature and based on the particular political, cultural, economic, and geopolitical context of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, this thesis offers a roadmap for reform that takes a holistic, long-term, and incremental approach to resolve the issue of disputed territories with Baghdad. The success of the KRI in addressing the territorial dispute with Baghdad is contingent on its ability to improve governance and reduce corruption in the KRI. Whether the Kurdistan Region of Iraq succeeds or fails will have broader implications for the Kurds, Iraq, the region, and U.S. policy in the Middle East. Given its geostrategic position in the heart of the Middle East and its abundant natural resources, addressing the issues of corruption, governance, and the disputed territories are essential not only for the KRI, but for the region as a whole and the international community.