Soft power and the challenges of private actors: Turkey - Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) relations and the rising role of businessmen in Turkish Foreign Policy
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AbstractWhen the new Iraqi constitution was proclaimed in 2005, Kurds obtained the opportunity to build a de facto state in the north of Iraq. As a neighbour state Turkey has involved in the infrastructure construction of Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) through the activities of businessmen although the formation of a Kurdish state in the Middle East was a taboo in Ankara’s foreign policy. These business activities allowed to Turkey and KRG to build bilateral political relations as well as to strengthen Turkey’s soft power in the region. At the same time, as their activities were considered compatible with the state’s foreign policy strategies Kurdish businessmen of Turkey benefited from these activities to reintroduce a minority question into the domestic political debate. This article shows how by using their capacity for transnational action, a group of non-state actors contributes to state’s soft power and challenges at the same time the state in order to strengthen its influence in domestic politics. Through the case of Turkey’s businessmen in KRG, this article analyzes how the concept of soft power gains a larger definition as a means for private actors.