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Current Political Complexities of the Iraqi Turkmen

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The Turkmen population of Iraq is a significant factor in linking the greater Caucasus region to Northern Mesopotamia. However, in the post-Saddam Hussein era, much conventional discourse has identified them as a politically and culturally marginalised group in relation to the Arab and Kurdish majorities. This study presents an alternative assessment of the Turkmen situation based on a survey of changes in the Iraqi political context over the past decade. This is applied in order to determine the precedents for Turkmen democratic activity in northern Iraq, as well as impediments to accommodation between Turkmen and other regional identities. These patterns are analysed at both the domestic level, including geographic distribution, popular mobilisation and party formation, and at the international level, which examines the impact of Turkey's external influence and sponsorship on these internal conditions. Several tentative conclusions are reached. First, the Iraqi Turkmen exhibit both high levels of mobilisation and pluralistic political organisation that contrast with other ethnic and sectarian minorities in Iraq. Second, sectarian and ideological cleavages within the Turkmen population along with sporadic violent attacks have motivated assimilation with the coalition politics that has evolved since the first post-Saddam national elections, rather than armed insurgency. Finally, the role of Turkey as a primary external patron has presented both obstacles and potential advantages for the political welfare of the Iraqi Turkmen community since 2003.

Affiliations: 1: School of Politics and Economics, Claremont Graduate University

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