Islamic State, the Kurds and the Future of Iraq
A timely account of the rise of the Kurds in response to the eruption of Islamic State and the growing fragmentation of Iraq
In late June 2014, Islamic State captured Mosul — the bastion of nationalist sentiment and centre of Arab Sunni political, economic and cultural life in northern Iraq. Baghdad’s writ was spectacularly compromised as vast areas of Iraq and Syria — Raqqa, Hassakeh and Deir az-Zur in Syria; Mosul, Fallujah and the fringes of Baghdad in Iraq — fell to ‘Caliph’ Abu Bakr’s shock troops.
The leadership of the Kurdistan Region responded by securing its southern boundary in ‘the disputed territories’ while the Kurds expanded the areas they controlled by taking the previously contested areas of Nineveh, Erbil and Kirkuk provinces — including the oil-city of Kirkuk.
With its army devastated and the Islamic State seemingly unstoppable, Western powers once again returned to the skies of Iraq to defend the Kurds and Baghdad’s Shia-dominated regime in Baghdad, now aided by Iranian government and irregular forces.
Charting the events of recent years and placing them in their wider historical context,
Stansfield analyses how and why Islamic State achieved such astonishing successes, how Kurdish leaders responded while redefining their quest for greater autonomy, and how Baghdad confronted the new challenges and wider regional issues that crystallised in ‘post-Mosul Iraq’.
Gareth Stansfield is Professor of Middle East Politics and Al-Qasimi Chair of Arab Gulf Studies at the University of Exeter.