Federal Iraqi security forces gather outside Alton Kupri, on the outskirts of Irbil, Iraq, Oct. 19, 2017 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

Events in Iraq this week will go down as one of the greatest debacles in the living memory of many Iraqi Kurds. On Monday, the confrontation between the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government of President Masoud Barzani and Iraq’s central government escalated dramatically when Baghdad launched a major military offensive to retake the multiethnic, oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Kurdish forces had seized control of the city in 2014 in the vacuum created by the advance of the self-proclaimed Islamic State and the retreat of Iraqi troops. Less than 15 hours after the start of the Kirkuk offensive, a coalition of regular […]

Mourners take the coffin of former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani during his funeral procession, Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, Oct. 6, 2017 (AP photo).

Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader and former president of Iraq, died earlier this month, five years after being incapacitated by a stroke and days after a controversial referendum on Kurdish independence. His life and legacy offer insights into the complex mix of leadership and identity in Kurdistan and Iraq—or, for that matter, in Catalonia and other places where identity does not align easily with the borders of a nation state. Talabani was a towering figure in both Kurdish and Iraqi politics, and moved easily between these two magnetic poles. No one could doubt his devotion to Kurdish rights and the […]

Children holding Kurdish flags run on the streets of Kirkuk, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2017 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

Last week’s independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan drew the ire of all its neighbors, including the central government in Baghdad. Yet a bit farther afield, the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was offering vocal support for the vote, a position that reflected decades of quiet relations between Israel and Irbil. In an email interview, Bilal Wahab, a Soref fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, discusses the history and diplomatic impact of Israeli-Kurdish ties and what Israel’s support for Iraqi Kurds means for other Kurds in the region. WPR: How far back does official Israeli support […]