Should the West support the establishment of Kurdistan as a state?

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10 November
14:25
Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kurdistan4all
November
2016

I do not think the issue is about the right to self-determination. Most would agree that the right of self-rule exists for all peoples of the world in some form. The essential issue is the viability of Kurdish statehood given existing geopolitical realities, the contentious nature of borders, the presence of non-Kurdish populations in ‘Kurdistan’, and the consequences that un-negotiated statehood could have for regional stability and the lives of local populations.

"Movements toward statehood would, ironically, likely result in losing actual autonomy to regional states"

Calls for independence evoke nationalist sentiment, but the outcomes for different Kurdish regions are based on sensitive issues around territories, resource claims and economic capabilities, and challenge the territorial integrity of states.

When thinking about political futures for different Kurdish regions the key question is how would these regions survive and remain stable in a geopolitical context that does not support Kurdish statehood, or even overly autonomous Kurdish regions. Movements toward statehood would, ironically, likely result in losing actual autonomy to regional states. This has been the case in the landlocked Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which has become a virtual client of Turkey while also dependent on Baghdad

These hard questions between nationalist sentiment and geopolitical realities have little to do with the United States and everything to do with regional and domestic politics.

The views expressed are Dr Natali’s own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the US government. 

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