Political Dynamics in Post-2003 Iraq
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Exeter
Unit of AssessmentArea Studies
Summary Impact TypePolitical
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Political Science
Summary of the impact
Professor Gareth Stansfield's research at the University of Exeter into
aspects of post-2003 Iraq has informed UK government and international
policy towards Iraq since the invasion, and has had impact on policy
makers in the US and the UN, through interventions raised and derived from
his research. Specifically, his research has had an impact in three areas:
- Research into conflict management in Iraq's disputed territories
has informed the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)
recommendations for resolving the dispute.
- Research on political mobilization and civil war dynamics in Iraq
informed guidelines for asylum/human rights determination process for
the UK Borders Agency (UKBA).
- Research into post-conflict stabilization and approaches to state
building contributed significantly to public awareness and policy
debate through the media on managing the situation through federal and
power-sharing arrangements in Iraq.
Researcher: Gareth Stansfield — Research Fellow (2002); Lecturer (2004);
Reader (2005); Associate Professor (2006); Professor (2007)
In 2003, a coalition force led by the United States invaded and occupied
Iraq, removing the Ba'th regime of Saddam Hussein. By 2004 and onwards,
the security situation in Iraq began to deteriorate rapidly and several
civil wars unfolded as different communities of Iraqis began to coalesce
around ethnic and sectarian identities. Stansfield's research programme
considered conflict management, political mobilization, and the rebuilding
of the state in Iraq.
In 2002, Stansfield was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Special Research
Fellowship to investigate `The reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq',
between 2002 and 2004. The dates of the fellowship occurred alongside the
move towards regime-change. As such, the research programme maintained a
degree of flexibility to take into account post-conflict developments,
allowing the research findings to be targeted on particular issues of
relevance to the policymaking community. The research focused on the rise
of communal politics in Iraq, and possible mechanisms by which they could
be managed in a post-conflict setting, including consociationalism and
asymmetric federalism (Stansfield 2003; Anderson and Stansfield 2004).
Research additionally considered the impact of Coalition policies upon the
stability of the post-conflict environment. This research theme was
further developed following the awarding of a grant by the United States
Institute for Peace (USIP) on `Investigating Political Mobilization in
Iraqi Kurdistan', held from 2005 to 2007. The thematic of ethno-sectarian
political mobilization proved to be significant to policy makers due to
the unfolding of a range of fast-moving inter- and intra-communal wars
from 2004 onwards. Stansfield's research contributed significantly to the
debate on causation and, importantly in terms of impact, the policy level
debate on managing the situation through federal and power-sharing
arrangements (Stansfield 2007). This work contextualised a successful
application for £738,000 made to the Leverhulme Trust Research Leadership
Award scheme on `Ethnopolitics in a Globalized World', which then further
supported additional research on Iraq.
The second part of Stansfield's research programme focused specifically
on the Arab-Kurdish dispute in Iraq, and particularly upon the disputed
city and region of Kirkuk. The research benefited from the awarding of a
Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship entitled `Between Arabs, Kurds, and
Turkmens: Managing Kirkuk', held from 2007 to 2009. The research
culminated in several articles (such as items 1. and 3. in section 3.
below) and a monograph (Anderson and Stansfield 2009). This research
coincided with Kurdish-Arab relations faltering and the status of Kirkuk
turning into one of the most volatile situations in Iraq. The many
findings of this work identified the relative claims of the different
communities, and the mechanisms by which they attempted to exercise
control in Kirkuk. The research also presented a range of options whereby
Kirkuk's inclusion in either Iraq or in Kurdistan could be managed, and
how the resolution of the question of Kirkuk's territory could be
separated from the question of Kirkuk's oil reserves.
The third part of the research programme reflected upon the UK's
experience in Iraq, with a particular view to involvement, intervention,
and stabilization. This theme developed in the first instance from
Stansfield's participation in a Defence Intelligence Staff initiative in
2002-03, and his subsequent work with a range of senior UK military
officials from PJHQ and DCDC. The research was further underpinned by the
awarding of an ESRC grant in 2007 on `British military intervention and
ethical statecraft' (with Tim Dunne). This work focused on the options
available to UK military planners to stabilize the situation in Iraq,
particularly by working with local political actors.
References to the research
1. Stansfield, G. (2010) `The Reformation of Iraq's Foreign Relations:
New Elites and Enduring Legacies', International Affairs, 86(6),
1395-1410. ISSN 0020-5850.
Evidence of quality: peer reviewed article in highly ranked journal;
result of external grant funding from United States Institute for Peace
2. Anderson, L and G. Stansfield (2009) Crisis in Kirkuk: The
Ethnopolitics of Conflict and Compromise. Philadelphia, PA:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 298 pp. ISSN 97808122417610812241762
Evidence of quality: peer reviewed monograph from university press in
dedicated ethnopolitics series; reviewed very favourably in leading
journals (see Perspectives on Politics, 9:1 (2011).
3. Stansfield, G and Anderson, L. (2009) The Kurds in Iraq: The Struggle
Between Baghdad and Erbil', Middle East Policy, 16(1), 134-145.
Evidence of quality: peer reviewed journal article in the leading Middle
East area studies journal on IR citations listing.
4. Stansfield, G. (2008) Iraq: People, History, Politics.
Cambridge: Polity. ISBN 9780745632261.
Evidence of quality: peer reviewed monograph in prestigious series;
favourably reviewed in leading journals.
5. ESRC `Impact' grant (2007), `British military intervention and ethical
statecraft'. PI Tim Dunne, CI Gareth Stansfield.
6. Stansfield, G. (2007) `Accepting Realities in Iraq', Chatham House
Middle East Programme Briefing Paper, MEP BP 07/02. London: Chatham
Evidence of quality: peer reviewed briefing paper that has been highly
cited; a much downloaded paper from Chatham House website.
7. Anderson, L and Stansfield, G. (2004) The Future of Iraq:
Dictatorship, Democracy or Division? Co-authored with Liam Anderson.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan., 260 pp. ISBN 9781403871449
Evidence of quality: peer reviewed monograph; reviews generated indicate
both quality of book and the interest the arguments in it created.
Details of the impact
Conflict management in Iraq's disputed territories
Research by Stansfield on conflict causation and management in Iraq
helped steer the activities of the UN mission tasked with facilitating
negotiations between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan
Regional Government (KRG). In 2008, the FCO recommended Stansfield to act
as a Senior Political Adviser to the UN's Special Representative of the
Secretary General (SRSG) in Iraq — a position he held throughout 2008 and
which included a three-month stay in Iraq. During this time, he was tasked
by the SRSG to discuss possible strategies with the Kurdish leadership.
In 2009, Stansfield's research on the disputed territories and Kurdish
political mobilization had a direct input into the drafting of the UN's
recommendations for the resolution of the disputed territories, with the
UN Department of Political Affairs staff utilizing his co-authored book Crisis
in Kirkuk extensively. Stansfield's research on range of options for
the future status of Kirkuk (inclusion in either Iraq or in Kurdistan;
resolution of Kirkuk's territorial status and its separation the question
of its oil reserves) informed the shaping of the UN Assistance Mission for
Iraq's (UNAMI) report on `Disputed Internal Boundaries in Iraq', published
in 2009, but still under embargo. Since then, Stansfield's expertise on
Arab-Kurd politics has been noted by the private sector, with him acting
as an adviser to the senior management of Shell on the politics of Kirkuk,
with the Chairman of Shell Iraq noting the importance of Crisis in
Kirkuk (2009) to Shell's deliberations. Stansfield has also chaired
US Government events on this subject, and briefed research analysts and
ambassadors-designate of the FCO regularly, with his book Iraq
(2008) recommended to FCO staff beginning their work on Iraq as essential
reading, as an ideal way of introducing them to a complex country in a
detached, dispassionate, fashion.
Political mobilization and civil war dynamics in Iraq
Stansfield's research informed guidelines for asylum/human rights
determination process through being cited in the UK Border Agency's `UK
Country of Information Report on the Kurdistan Region as a separate and
independent region of Iraq' in April (http://bit.ly/1fgmu7m),
revised in September 2009, and the Country of Information Report on Iraq
in December 2009. These reports provide general background information for
officials involved in human rights' claims in the UK. Stansfield
independently reviewed and made recommendations on the original version of
these documents and when the Office of the Independent Chief Inspector of
UKBA convened a meeting of the Independent Advisory Group on Country
Information on the 19th of May 2009 (http://bit.ly/18GN3eZ),
it was noted in the minutes that `the UKBA had responded positively to
nearly all of the recommendations made by Professor Stansfield
[report Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) area of Iraq] and had
amended the COI report accordingly'. Moreover it was noted that `The
group considered Professor Stansfield's report [to be] very helpful
because he set out the information gaps and suggested where further
information was needed. For this reason the group agreed his report
should be used as an example of best practice for distribution to future
Post conflict stabilization and approaches to state building
In response to the sudden downturn of the security situation in Iraq, the
US employed a different strategy (the `surge' strategy) through localising
of security structures in a bid to defeat the threat posed by Al-Qaeda in
Iraq (AQI) and the Shi'a Jaish al-Mahdi. Stansfield's research
considered how Coalition actions had exacerbated tensions within Iraqi
society rather than resolve them, as reported in the House of Commons
Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Sixth Report of 2005
(http://bit.ly/1bv5U3P). In high-level meetings, Stansfield presented his
research on the regional mobilization of political communities in Iraq and
the possibility of structuring military forces along regimental lines —
i.e. recruiting from localities, finding local solutions to local security
problems. Following Stansfield's 2007 Chatham House Briefing Paper (http://bit.ly/1gGTXpF)
the research's impact was further extended through discussions held with
senior UK military officials tasked with working alongside US counterparts
on improving security. Stansfield's 2007 research also impacted upon the
Coalition's 2007/8 `surge' strategy aimed at removing the Al-Qaeda
insurgency threat from Iraq, with him providing analysis and advice
directly to the Director of Intelligence at the Permanent Joint
Headquarters (PJHQ), on strategies to defeat Al-Qaeda in Iraq and further
the Coalition reconciliation effort. His involvement in this area was
highlighted by an invitation to present a paper on the subject at the Iraq
Inquiry in 2009 (http://bit.ly/1eXG1vV)
and he has since contributed to the writing of UK stabilization doctrine
in events held at the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) of
the Ministry of Defence (http://bit.ly/16dD4nx). Following this engagement
with the military, Stansfield has been asked to join several ad hoc
working groups tasked with advising on the interaction of the UK with
nascent Syrian opposition groups, (evidence: DFID funded project through
Coffey International focused upon the capacity-building of Syrian
opposition groups in the Kurdish north; adviser to Chief Joint Operations
(CJO) Permanent Joint Headquarters). Stansfield has also won a further
unsolicited USIP/Chatham House award to undertake work on Iraq's foreign
policy formulation, being the one of the first academics to recognise that
at least two foreign policy structures existed in Iraq (Stansfield 2010).
Further impact and benefit
In 2010, Stanfield's research informed policy makers by being cited in a
House of Commons research paper `The Arab uprising' and pointed to the
similarities between the situation in Iraq after the fall of Saddam
Hussein and Libya (http://bit.ly/15aU4o8).
His work on counter-insurgency saw him invited to be a founding member of
the `PJHQ Red-Team', designed to inform the Chief of Defence Staff on
strategic options in Libya. And, in 2011, regarding the Arab Kurd dispute,
his research was cited in the United States Forces `Iraq' commissioned
report by RAND National Defence Research Institute `Managing Arab-Kurd
Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops' aimed at
informing US policy makers on preparations for the withdrawal of US troops
from Iraq. He has also briefed, in spring 2013, the Defence Select
Committee of Parliament on the subject of Iraq, Syria, and sectarianism.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- UK Border Agency Report on KRG Country of Origin Information Report,
April 2009 http://www.ociukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/files/IAGCI-reviews/review-krg-coi-report.pdf
- Minutes arising from the Office of the Chief Inspector of the UK
Borders Agency 19.05.2009 http://icinspector.independent.gov.uk/wp-ontent/uploads/2010/03/Minutes_IAGCI_19.05.2009.pdf
- UNDP/YouGov, April 2009 `The Iraq Provincial Election Study, with Joe
Twyman and David Saunders
- Iraq Inquiry Written Submission, November 2009 `What were the causes
and consequences of Iraq's descent into violence after the initial
- RAND National Defense Research Institute `Managing Arab-Kurd tensions
in Northern Iraq after the withdrawal of US Troops' 2011.
- After the Spring; Prospects for the Arab World in 2013. UNA-UK
- Chatham House Briefing Paper, 2007 `Accepting Realities in Iraq'
- House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Sixth Report of
- House of Commons Research Paper, RP11/73 `The Arab Uprisings', 15
- Letters from Greg Shapland (FCO), Hans Nijkamp (Shell Iraq), and
General Sir Peter Wall (Chief of General Staff, British Army).