Public Authority and Iraq's Disputed Territories

Principal Investigator: Mac Skelton
Duration: March 2018 – March 2019
Supported by: UK Department for International Development (DfID)

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A conversation between two Sons of Iraq. Photo: Herald Post, Flickr.

From 2003 to 2014, despite de jure Government of Iraq (GoI) authority, the Kurdish presence in the disputed territories in the Kirkuk, Diyala, Salahuddin, and Ninewa governorates, in the form of the local population, party offices, schools and clinics, and security forces, led the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to assume de facto authority in many areas. Today, the GoI is in nearly exclusive control of the disputed territories for the first time since 2003. In spite of this, the territories remain disputed and will therefore continue to be the main driver of conflict between the KRG and the GoI until a negotiated settlement is reached.

This project looks into how competing public authorities (KRG and GoI) at the local and national level drive conflict through administrative policies and security forces positioning, as well as through the political marketplace and moral populism (Iraqi nationalism versus Kurdish ethno-nationalism). It also looks at the role of the political marketplace and public authority in disputed territories. Finally, the project searches for ‘civicness’ in the territories that might be galvanised to support a settlement and prevent further conflict.

This project forms part of the Conflict Research Programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development to provide research and policy advice on how the risk and impact of violent conflict might be more effectively reduced through development and governance interventions.


Project Outputs


Research Team

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Mac Skelton | Principal Investigator

Mac is Director of Research and Policy at The Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) at The American University of Iraq Sulaimani (AUIS).

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Zmkan Ali Saleem | Researcher

Zmkan is Researcher at The Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) at The American University of Iraq Sulaimani (AUIS).

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