Gulf War II

(2003)
   In March 2003, the United States and Great Britain launched a war against Iraq that quickly overthrew Saddam Hussein's Baathist government but then just as quickly lapsed into a virulent civil war between Iraq's sectarian and ethnic groups further complicated by outside intervention from Iran and various external Islamic extremist groups. As of May 2009, the Iraqi government reported that more than 110,600 Iraqis had died in the violence since 2003 and that the figure was actually 10 to 20 percent higher because of thousands who were still not accounted for. Others such as the British medical journal Lancet estimated the figure to be much higher. The United States had suffered 4,278 deaths since the war had begun.
   Fortunately, the Kurdish region in Iraq was largely spared from this conflict. Indeed, since Turkey decided not to join the United States in attacking Iraq, the Iraqi Kurds quickly became the main U.S. ally in the north. Thus, the war initially gave the Iraqi Kurds the great-power ally they had always unsuccessfully sought in the past and placed them in the strongest position they had ever occupied in Iraq. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) became virtually independent with Massoud Barzani as president and Nechirvan Idris Barzani as prime minister, while Jalal Talabani became president of Iraq. Moreover, the KRG model in northern Iraq inspired and emboldened the Kurds in Turkey, Iran, and even Syria to demand their rights as never before.
   However, as Arab Iraq gradually stabilized, it began to challenge these Kurdish gains in Iraq. The future of Kirkuk, as well as that of federalism, democracy, women's rights, Islam, and ultimate Kurdish rights remained to be solved. Eventual U.S. withdrawal also threatened the future of the KRG. What is more, Turkey feared that federalism for the Iraqi Kurds might be the first step toward independence and serve as an unwanted model for the Turkish Kurds. Only Turkey's inability to reach an agreement with the United States over allowing U.S. troops to use Turkey as a base from which to attack Iraq in 2003 prevented Washington and Ankara from reaching a deal that would have allowed Turkish troops into northern Iraq. In addition, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) sanctuary in the mountainous northeastern regions of the KRG also remained a problem in Turkish-KRG relations.

Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. .

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