University of Leicester
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Explaining U.S. Foreign Policy towards Kurdistan Region of Iraq (2003-2015)

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posted on 2017-02-16, 15:44 authored by Nawzad Abdullah Shukri
The objective of this thesis is to examine U.S. foreign policy towards the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) from 2003-2015. It argues that after 2003 there has been a considerable change in U.S. policy towards the KRI, and attempts to explain the key reasons behind this change. The regime change in Iraq in 2003 can be considered the beginning of a dramatic departure from the U.S.' traditional policy towards the Kurds, which was mostly embodied in the rejection of any Kurdish aspirations for autonomy and independence. From 2003, the U.S. backed the Kurds and pursued more flexible policy towards the KRI, yet it was always limited by the U.S.’ position on maintaining Iraq as a unitary state. Whilst the U.S. worked with the Kurds and supported Kurdish autonomous region, it nevertheless blocked the Kurdish aspirations for independence. In particular when it appeared to threaten U.S. policy in Iraq and the Middle East. However, this U.S. policy changed further from 2012 to 2015, during which the KRI was seen as almost the final platform of stability in Iraq, a perception that was strengthened by the rise of ISIL in 2014. Thus, the U.S. position towards Kurdish interests and even a Kurdish independent state changed, as the KRI in particular became more important to the U.S. strategy in Iraq and region. However, the position of the KRI highlights a wider set of issues. The regime change in Iraq in 2003 was latest part of the U.S.’ wider strategy to enhance its regional hegemony, and so its behaviour towards the Kurds depended on the extent to which they contributed to its interests. As such, this thesis provides a case study to explain the changing approach of U.S. policy towards the KRI, and in doing so also provides a useful and detailed case study of U.S.-Kurdish policy.



Moran, Jon; Phythian, Mark

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of Politics and International Relations

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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