The relationship between the U.S. and Kurdistan region-Iraq post referendum

  • Mahd Ameen Abdullah PhDs at University Utara Malaysia (UUM) Assistant Lecturer at Soran University Faculty of law & international relation
  • Aminurraasyid Bin Yatiban University Utara Malaysia (UUM) School of International Studies (SOIS) Director of Institute of Excellence
Keywords: Iraqi Kurds, ISIS, the U.S, the Middle East, Referendum


The US foreign policy towards the Iraqi Kurds, after the emergence of (ISIS) passed through two different stages. The first one began with the fall of Mosul and the attack of the Islamic state (ISIS) on Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq (KGRI) we can call this stage the one prior to referendum that was held on September 25, 2017. When (ISIS) tried to enter Erbil the capital of (KGR-I), then US president Barak Obama announced that "Erbil is a red line for us" thereafter, it began to defend it by preventing the Islamic state from approaching Erbil and provided support to the (KGR) militarily and politically. The second phase of the US foreign policy towards the Kurds begins after the referendum in the Kurdistan; which we can call it the post-referendum stage. The relations were shifted from stage one completely, in which the US abandoned its support in particular the political one. Such abrupt shift in policy was a shock to Kurds as they did not expect this position from the US, given the sacrifices that Peshmerga made in fighting (ISIS). The Kurds attacked by The Popular Mobilisation Forces (al-hashd alshaebi) loyal to Iran, Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Iraqi army. The US did nothing, making the Kurds to feel disappointed and despondent with the US reaction.

The study found out that: America is using the Kurdish issue in the Middle East as a card to make a balance of power. Therefore, we see that sometimes they support them and others abandon them.The disintegration of the Kurdish House was one of the main reasons that led America to abandon them in October 16, 2017.


Ainley, C. B. and K. (2005) Understanding International Relations. three, International Relations. three. palgrave macmillan. doi: 10.2307/2600501.
Amos, D. (2014) ‘Kurds Put Their Independence Dreams On Hold’, Parallels : NPR, (December 23), pp. 1–12.
Audino, E. (2017) ‘5 reasons for U . S . to support an independent Kurdistan’, Washington Times, (July 26), pp. 1–2.
Barzani, M. (2017) ‘The time has come for Iraqi Kurdistan to make its choice on independence’, The Washington Post, (June 28, 2017).
Bernard, A. (2017) ‘Tillerson : The United States Does Not Recognize the Kurdish Referendum’, the American Interest, (Sep 30).
CALAMUR, K. (2017a) ‘Why Doesn ’ t the U . S . Support Kurdish Independence ?’, The Atlantic Daily, pp. 6–11.
CALAMUR, K. (2017b) ‘Why Doesn ’ t the U . S . Support Kurdish Independence ?’, The Atlantic, (OCT 20), pp. 6–11.
Donnelly, J. (2000) Realism and International Relations. First. the University Press,Cambridge.
Erlich, R. (2017) ‘Kurds didn ’ t Get Independence , US Support or even Democracy’, contributors, (Nov. 6), pp. 9–11.
Goldstein, J. and Pevehouse, J. (2009) ‘Realist Theories’, International Relations, pp. 35–62. Available at: file:///C:/Users/2015/Desktop/realism/Realist Theories.pdf.
Gunter, M. M. (2011) ‘Foreign Policy towards the Kurds’, 13(2), pp. 93–106.
HILTERMANN, J. (2017) ‘What Did the Kurds Get Out of the Referendum ?’, The Atlantic Daily, (September 24, 2017.), pp. 1–5.
Jaffe, C. W. & G. (2014) ‘U . S . sending weapons directly to Kurdish forces , officials say’, The Washington Post U.S., (August 11, 2014), pp. 10–12.
Jennifer Cafarella, O. K. and N. M. (2018) ‘What happened: Elements from a combined force of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Counterterrorism Services (CTS), Federal Police, and Iranian-backed popular mobilization forces (PMF) south of Kirkuk City launched a probing attack against Peshmerga forces sou’, pp. 2017–2018.
Kaplan, M. L. (2014) ‘Why the U.S. Backed the Kurds’, The Washington Post. Available at:
Katzman, K. (2015) Iraq : Politics , Security , and U . S . Policy.
Knights, M. (2014) ‘What Iraq â€TM s Kurdish Peshmerga Really Need’, The Washington Institute, (August 7, 2014).
Mansour, R. (2017) ‘How the Kurds Helped Draw the United States Back to Iraq’, pp. 1–5.
Meho, L. I. and Nehme, M. G. (1991) the Legacy of U . S . Support To Kurds : Two Major Episodes.
Nauert, H. (2017a) Political Transition in Iraqi Kurdistan Region, Virtual Student Federal Service. Available at: (Accessed: 1 November 2017).
Nauert, H. (2017b) U . S . Department of State Diplomacy in Action, U.S. Department of State Diplomacy in Action. Available at: (Accessed: 30 October 2017).
Newton-Small, J. (2014) ‘Kurds Welcome U . S . Help in Iraq , But Remember History of Betrayal’, time, (August 12), pp. 9–12.
Noack, R. (2014a) ‘How far will Obama ’ s support for the Iraqi Kurds go ?’, The Washington Post, (August 12, 2014), pp. 1–4.
Noack, R. (2014b) ‘The long, winding history of American dealings with Iraq’s Kurds’, the washington post, (August 7, 2014). Available at:
Press, B. A. (2017) ‘US sending weapons to Kurds in Iraq : senior officials’, pp. 8–9.
Project, T. K. (2016) ‘A Visit to the Frontlines of the Battle Against ISIL WWI-Style Front Lines’, The Kurdish Project, (May 10), pp. 1–13.
RELATIONS, C. O. F. (2017) The Time of the Kurds Who Are the Kurds ?, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS.
Shareef, M. J. M. (2010) Durham E-Theses President George W . Bushs Policy Towards Iraq : Change or Continuity ? President George W . Bush ’ s Policy Towards Iraq : Change or Continuity ? Mohammed J . M . Shareef Doctor of Philosophy in International Relations School of Governmen.
Shifrinson, J. R. I. (2006) ‘The Kurds and Regional Security : An Evaluation of Developments since the Iraq War’, (14).
Stansfield, G. (2017) ‘A New State in the Middle East ? Republic of Kurdistan’, Royal Uniited Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, 15(September 2017), pp. 1–12.
TAMKIN, R. D. and E. (2017a) Iraqi Kurds Vote for Independence Over U.S. Objections.
TAMKIN, R. D. and E. (2017b) ‘Iraqi Kurds Vote for Independence Over U.S. Objections’, Foreign Policy, (SEP 25), pp. 1–6.
Zedalis, R. J. (2010) Claims Against Iraqi Oil and Gas. First. Cambridge University Press.
How to Cite
Abdullah M, Yatiban A. The relationship between the U.S. and Kurdistan region-Iraq post referendum. JAHS [Internet]. 19Sep.2019 [cited 15Oct.2019];23(4):308 -321. Available from: