Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. David Keeling (Director), Dr. Peggy Gripshover, Dr. Chris Bierwith

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


The fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I enabled the victorious Western powers to implement the Sykes-Picot Treaty and reshape the geopolitical structure of the Middle East. The imposition of arbitrary borders on the Middle East region, specifically the state of Iraq, would lead to significant conflicts over the course of the 20th century. In 2003, a US-led invasion would further compound the instability and sectarian conflict within Iraq by completely dismantling the state. In the years after the invasion, the United States has been directly involved unsuccessfully in trying to rebuild and stabilize the state of Iraq.

The goal of this study is to propose and analyze four options for the future geopolitical structure of Iraq that, by design, could maintain the current geopolitical borders and possibly contribute to stability in the Middle East. A qualitative approach that examines the benefits of different models of government is used to identify themes that may apply to the state of Iraq, Because adoption of any of the proposed options depends on choices that must be made by the Iraqi government, this thesis presents only a theoretical argument about the country’s likely future.

It is my contention that the most likely route to achieving long-term political stability within Iraq is implementation of a federalist model of government that resembles the Swiss model. The Swiss model provides a framework to create ethnic tolerance through specific power devolution, internal cooperation, and conflict resolution between the different tribal and ethnic groups within each region, and external cooperation and adjudication of issues between the regions and the central government.

This study’s results show that the different options analyzed all have positive and negative characteristics. The three-region Swiss model provided an exceptional framework and addressed a number of Iraq’s problems, but elements of the other models could be implemented into the three-region model to create a more stable state. Further analysis is needed to determine the best model of government to stabilize Iraq.


Geography | Models and Methods