Kurd-Arab tensions along the Green Line: Iraq’s roadblock to long-term stability

  • EJ Palka


For nearly two millennia, the Kurds have inhabited a mountainous region known as Kurdistan, a territory including parts of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. Within Iraq, Kurds are the second largest ethnic group, comprising 15–20% of the population and constituting the majority of citizens in the provinces of Dohuk, Irbil and Sulaymaniyah. Historic rivalries between Iraqi Kurds and Arabs contribute to current social and political unrest, and pose an even greater challenge to long-term stability in the country. One of the most volatile issues fuelling Kurd-Arab tensions concerns the „Green Line‟, which on various maps separates Iraq‟s Kurdish and Arab populations. Initially established by Saddam Hussein in 1991, the ambiguous boundary has shifted north during Arabisation schemes and south as a result of Kurdish settlement and encroachment. More recently, on 19 March 2003, the Green Line was defined as the area controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and recognised by the Iraqi Transitional Government when it passed the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) in 2004. Although the Iraqi Constitution recognises Kurdistan as a federal region, the precise boundary remains contentious. At stake are the historical ties to the territory along the Green Line, the associated oil reserves, and the status of the symbolic city of Kirkuk. Resolution of the disputed territories along the Green Line, the associated revenue sharing of the oil wealth, and the fate of Kirkuk, constitute a single, complex, multifaceted issue that will have a decisive impact on the future stability, if not integrity, of Iraq.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-0020
print ISSN: 1022-8136