Providing comfort to Iraq's Kurds: forming a de facto relationship
Gomes, Alapaki F.
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This thesis seeks to determine how the United States has become the de facto security guarantor to Iraq’s Kurds. The development of a formal relationship between the American government and Iraq’s Kurdish population began as a response to a humanitarian crisis after the First Gulf War. The response mission was named Operation Provide Comfort. Though not intended to take sides, Operation Provide Comfort was a direct intervention into a conflict between the Iraqi state and Iraq’s Kurds—one that provided political space for the Kurds to pursue autonomy at Baghdad’s expense. Operation Provide Comfort was a shift in American policy on Iraq, made more prominent in comparison to American policy only three years earlier that declined to respond to allegations of genocide among these same Kurds by the same Iraqi state. This thesis recounts a brief history of Iraq’s Kurds and of American policy regarding their liberation movement, and applies the framework of three prominent international relations theories—liberal internationalism, constructivism and realism—to analyze Operation Provide Comfort as a U.S. foreign policy decision. This thesis determines that all three frameworks explain aspects of the mission, though the application of each theory exposes Iraq’s Kurdish question as an ongoing shortcoming in U.S. foreign policy.
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