Fighting for Kurdistan?
March 2018
Fighting for Kurdistan?
Assessing the nature and functions of the Peshmerga in Iraq
Feike Fliervoet

The Peshmerga forces of Iraqi Kurdistan are a complex and multi-faceted security organisation, their loyalty divided between the Iraqi state, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), different political parties and powerful individuals. At different times – and sometimes simultaneously – they can be characterised as national, regional, party and personal forces. This report explores the dynamics and consequences of these various roles in the broader political context of the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad.

For relations within the KRG, as well as between the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI) and Baghdad, to develop as constructively and as peacefully as possible, it is important that international partners currently supporting the Peshmerga and/or the Iraqi Security Forces take three recommendations to heart:

Develop an integrated security sector reform (SSR) strategy that considers support for the Peshmerga and the Iraqi Security Forces in relation to each other.
Ensure that such an integrated SSR strategy is embedded in a broader political strategy for re-including Iraq’s Kurds in the Iraqi polity on favourable, inclusive and reconciliatory terms.
Consider the need for reform and reconciliation within the Kurdistan region to prevent further intra-Kurdish conflict.

About the author

Feike Fliervoet is a Visiting Research Fellow at Clingendael’s Conflict Research Unit where she contributes to the Levant research programme, a three year long project that seeks to identify the origins and functions of hybrid security arrangements and their influence on state performance and development. She is also a PhD candidate at the European University Institute in Florence, where she studies the causes of cohesion and fragmentation in secessionist movements.

Photo credits

© Peshmerga, Kurdish Army © Flickr / Kurdishstruggle