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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: April 2021

14 - The Kurdistan Region of Iraq, 1991–2018

from Part III - Domestic Political Developments and the Kurds in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries


This chapter focuses on the emergence and of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) in 1991 and its evolution since then. The Kurds maintained their strong desire to be sovereign over territories they defined as Kurdistan, but reluctantly remained within Iraq. The removal of Saddam Hussein from power in 2003 by the US-led coalition allowed the Kurdish leaders to strengthen their alliance with Western powers and consolidate their autonomy. The instability in Iraq during the 2000s and the growing dominance of Shia political parties steadily deteriorated the relations between the KRI and the federal government of Iraq, and the insurgency by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) from 2013 posed an existential threat to the KRI. The struggle against ISIS brought under Kurdish control vast areas of northern Iraq that the Kurds claimed as being historically Kurdish, but that did not lie within KRI’s authority. However, the subsequent Kurdish efforts to secede from Iraq, which faced strong opposition from Iran and Turkey, reached an abrupt end when the Shia forces took control of the Kirkuk city along with other disputed regions back from the Kurdish forces in October 2017.