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. An integrated strategy should take account of the political consequences of strengthening the different forces and address the need for joint command structures and operational mechanisms;
- 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. This requires, above all, finding a satisfactory solution to the 'disputed areas' after the 2018 Iraqi elections;
- Consider the need for reform and reconciliation within the Kurdistan region to prevent further intra-Kurdish conﬂict. International actors should use their leverage over the KRG to push for greater transparency, political neutrality and more democratic control over the Peshmerga forces, especially during the upcoming elections.