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Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region of northeastern Iraq, bordering Syria, Turkey, and Iran. In 2017, the region held a disputed referendum, in which the population voted for independence. The Iraqi, US and UK Governments backed a continuing federal Iraq. Ongoing tensions with the federal government include over the region’s borders and oil fields, which represent most of the regional government’s revenues.

In 2023/24, Turkey has also been conducting military strikes against Kurdish groups it says are linked to terrorist activity in the country, and in 2024 Iran attacked a site which it claimed is linked to Israel (Iran-affiliated groups also have a history of targeting Kurdish groups in the region). These actions have drawn criticism from the Iraqi Government.

The UK Government supports the territorial integrity of Iraq and in 2023 discussed with the Iraqi Kurdistan regional government issues such as corruption, climate change, and security. It has called for Turkey to avoid escalation but says it recognises its security interests in Iraq.

This debate pack provides information on the history of Iraqi Kurdistan, recent military activity in the region by Turkey and Iran, ongoing tensions between the regional and federal government in Iraq, and UK Government statements and diplomatic work relating to the region. 

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