This study is a comparison between the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the area east of the Euphrates in Syria. From a historical perspective, the Kurdish question in Iraq was present from the creation of the Iraqi state and remained an area of interest for the Iraqi political elite. In contrast, Syrian Kurds formed their nationalist identity over time, as the Kurdish issue was left unconsidered by Syrian politics and Arab nationalist trends increasingly saw Kurds as enemies.
When it comes to comparing the geographic and demographic context, the Iraqi Kurdistan Region proved to share a unified stance towards the Iraqi state, while the Kurdish areas in Syria were divided politically, socially, and ethnically. Both areas are rich in resources, but east of the Euphrates has been underinvested in.
On international relationships, the paper describes that the relative legitimacy and political and ideological independence of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, enabled it to have external relations, while in Syria the overlap between political movements east of the Euphrates and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) created a barrier for relations with neighboring countries.
When comparing the political structure, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has relative agreement among the political forces for the better of the region as a whole, in contrast to the area east of the Euphrates, where political forces rely on their military power and relationships with international powers for gaining legitimacy and do not recognize each other.
Based on its findings, the paper recommends that decision-makers in the area east of the Euphrates find agreement amongst each other and increase trust between Arab and Kurdish social factions in the region, in addition to increasing their own social legitimacy. Furthermore, leaders should use the economy to create a sense of belonging in the area.
International decision-makers, on the other hand, should legally recognize the area, and decision-makers in the United States and European countries must put mechanisms in place to achieve long-term societal, political, and economic stability.
- It is incumbent upon the decision-makers in the area east of the Euphrates to understand the importance of the historical accumulation of the experience in any entity. The lack of such experience must be overcome by increasing the levels of exchange, communication, and acceptance of agreement amongst decision-makers.
- Some government entities in the region were founded as a result of military efforts exclusively. Public leaders in the area east of the Euphrates must understand other historical experiences as equivalent to their own.
- It is incumbent upon decision-makers in the countries involved in the international coalition to understand the importance of creating an umbrella of statutory legal recognition for this area, so that it can be a tool in creating stability, and imposing more responsibility on the actors in the governing authority of the area.
- Local leaders must understand that the poor relationship and lack of trust between Arab and Kurdish social factions in the area east of the Euphrates is the result of historical factors regarding public life in the area. This will be overcome by creating shared public work and not through lofty rhetoric.
- Decisions makers in the United States and European countries must put mechanisms in place regarding long-term societal, political, and economic stability for this area. Without this, the area could become “holding ground” for extremist organizations.
- Leaders in public affairs must understand that the economic factor, specifically dealing with the investment in natural resources, is the most capable of creating a collective identity and a sense of shared belonging to the different residents of the area. This factor has been lacking so far.
- Political forces in the area east of the Euphrates must understand that they do not have sufficient trust from social bases and that these bases are tired of the effects of civil war, and believe deeply that the political forces do not have the popular support to change the terrible situation of these elements.
- The political and cultural elite in the area east of the Euphrates must understand that any entity in the area east of the Euphrates is capable of becoming totalitarian and that there is no deterrent to the ruling authorities to do so.
- Politicians in the area east of the Euphrates must understand that the true protector of the area is the social forces themselves. To fulfill its role, society must have a reasonable element of representation in authorities.
- Decision-makers in the European Union must understand that stability in the area east of the Euphrates will enable the return of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, in particular elderly people and those not integrated into European countries.