HKS Authors

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Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs


The current tensions between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government are frequently presented simplistically as manifestations of historical animosities between Arabs and Kurds. Certainly, cultural factors do matter, and Iraq's long history -- including, of course, Saddam Hussein's brutal efforts to eradicate the Kurds -- shapes the nature of the problems and the lens through which they are viewed. But the reality is that Iraq's most difficult problems are primarily about substantive issues. Iraqis and their leaders are divided on fundamental questions about the nature of the state -- specifically, whether the locus of power should be in Baghdad or in the provinces. Should Iraq be a more traditional Arab state, where power is centralized in the capital? Or should the regions and the provinces -- i.e., the KRG -- have substantial authorities and autonomy?


O'Sullivan, Meghan. "Issues Before Identity in Iraq." Washington Post, July 21, 2009.