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To help U.S. policymakers prepare for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in late 2011, this paper presents options for mitigating the risks of Arab-Kurd conflict and suggests mechanisms through which U.S. government entities — both civilian and military — could work to alleviate tensions in northern Iraq. The authors discuss the feasibility of a range of confidence-building measures that could help Arabs and Kurds build trust and avoid conflicts that might derail peaceful efforts to resolve Iraq’s fundamental political challenges. They conclude that such efforts are unlikely to contain Arab-Kurd violence over the long-term absent a national-level agreement regarding federalism, the legal and political status of disputed territories, and the management of oil and gas resources. However, by managing local disputes, confidence-building measures may be able to prevent violence long enough for Iraq’s politicians to resolve these broader issues.

The research described in this report was prepared for United States Forces&ndsah;Iraq. The research was conducted within the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation occasional paper series. RAND occasional papers may include an informed perspective on a timely policy issue, a discussion of new research methodologies, essays, a paper presented at a conference, or a summary of work in progress. All RAND occasional papers undergo rigorous peer review to help ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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