Iraq (KDP and PUK)


Conflict Summary

The Iraqi Kurds are demanding greater autonomy and equal status in a post-Saddam federal Iraq. They have been struggling to gain autonomy since 1946, when the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was established. In 1975, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) broke away from the KDP and the two groups started to compete for authority in the Kurdish region. Throughout the Iran–Iraq War of 1980–88, the Iraqi and Iranian regimes targeted the Kurds. During Operation Desert Storm, the Kurds launched a military uprising in Iraq. Even though the rebellion was crushed, the United Nations (UN) Security Council adopted resolution 688 (on 5 April 1991), which called on Baghdad to curb its attacks on the Kurds and to create a safe haven for them in northern Iraq. The Iraqi government was willing to grant the Kurdish region autonomous status, but it was opposed to Kurdish control of the two oil-rich provinces of Kirkuk and Mosul.

After the 1992 elections in the Kurdish region, fighting erupted between the KDP and the PUK. The fighting ended in 1998 as a result of the Washington Peace Agreement. The two groups have failed to implement the provisions of the accord, however, and relations between them remain tense. In 1999, members of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) fled from Turkey to Iraq; in 2001 and 2002 heavy fighting was reported between the KDP and the PUK. The Iraqi Kurds have also witnessed the emergence of Islamist Kurdish groups, resulting in the formation of an alliance  between the KDP and the PUK. In March 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, these united Kurdish troops made an important contribution to the US-led northern front. The Kurds have come under increasing pressure from Turkey, which is determined to prevent Iraqi Kurds from gaining independence. In addition, they are disappointed with US domination of the Iraqi interim administration.

Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 the conflict between the government of Iraq and Iraq's Kurds has ceased. Iraqi Kurds are now playing a comprehensive role in Iraq’s new government.