The disintegration of countries is basically an old policy of the United States which aims to secure and realize the regional interests of the United States in West Asia and the Muslim world. In Iraq, this project entitled “the establishment of a Sunni territory” is presently on the agenda of the United States and some of its regional allies such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. It is a dangerous plan which can have significant outcomes for the security, economy and politics of Iraq, the neighbouring states and the whole region at large. Moreover, this project would have high costs for the Sunnis and would entail important consequences which could make the Sunnis dependant on the US and its regional elements and the discharge the Sunni regions of their energy resources by foreign players and revive terrorist groups (such as Daesh and remnants of the dissolved Baath Party).
History of the issue
The plan to disintegrate Iraq, with the “Sunni territory project” as one of its important dimension has been highlighted more in recent months. It is part of a grand regional plan of the US government which is also being pursued in other countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and even the regional partners of the United States i.e. Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The history of this plan to disintegrate Muslim territories dates back to the early years of Iraq’s invasion of Iran. In that time, the then national security advisor of the US government Zbigniew Brzezinski mandated Bernard Lewis with dividing the Muslim and Arab countries under the excuse of the so-called Sykes–Picot Agreement according to which the Islamic empire would be divided into several small countries under the guardianship of the United Kingdom and France.
Lewis was a retired professor of Middle East studies in Princeton University and an expert of the issues of the Muslim world. He was in fact one of the most distinguished Western orientalists. The expert views of Lewis on the Middle East are considered and highlighted by many institutes. His consultations were constantly demanded by US presidents such as George W. Bush on the case of the Iraq war. One of the most well-known theories of Lewis, titled the Lewis Doctrine, is about the issue of the clash of civilizations and the disintegration of Iran and other Middle East countries. In this way, with the disintegration of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia the Greater Middle East region shall be composed of countries that cannot turn into a threat to national security and regional interests of the United States and would engaged in balancing each other. This should be considered in the history and theoretical foundations of the plan to disintegrate Muslims states including Iraq.
A review of the Sunni territory project
The Sunni territory project was first proposed in 2017 in the US Senate by Joe Biden. On the basis of this plan, which apparently aimed at finding a solution to the crises of occupation of Iraq in 2003, Iraq should be divided into three autonomous Kurdish, Shia and Sunni regions.
On the Sunni territory of Iraq, there are various approaches. Some believe that the Sunni territory is going to be composed of six provinces of Baghdad, al-Anbar, Diyala, Salahuddin, Kirkuk and Nineveh. Some others believe that the Sunni territory will be composed of Sunni-residing provinces of al-Anbar, Diyala, Salahuddin, Kirkuk and Ninava. Some other currents have also proposed the so-called two-territory plan with Mosul being one center and al-Ramadi (al-Anbar) being the other.
This plan has been given new momentum in recent months and especially after the victory of Joe Biden in the US presidential elections. Biden is called the architect of territories in Iraq. In this respect, some media and political circles have reported that in November, some Sheikhs and distinguished figures of al-Anbar province have participated in some conferences and meetings of the Irbil province under the supervision of the United States. Such conferences and meetings aim at promoting the Sunni territory project being administered by the US in al-Anbar. Some Sheikhs had seriously opposed such plans in these conferences and meetings.
The main important goals of the US in pursuing this Iraq disintegration plan include: disrupting the process of implementing the Iraqi parliament law on evicting the American forces; establishing a safe zone free from the threat of forces opposed to the military presence in Iraq; re-instating American forces in the west of Iraq; facilitated managing and controlling of policies related to Iraq through continuing the crisis and increasing the level of conflict; expanding influence through creating division and differences; and separating Iraq from Iran.
The Sunni territory project, even though being seriously pursued, secretly and openly, by some American intelligence and non-security agencies in cooperation with Saudi Arabia, cannot be realized in practice for some reasons: First, there is opposition by Iraqis even those residing in Sunni areas as well as the Iraqi tribes at the level of public opinion and elites; such opposition will not allow this plan to be easily implemented. For example, some of the Sheikhs in Ninava province have rejected this plan and declared the opposition of tribes to the Sunni territory project sought by some Sunni political parties and personalities.
Secondly, the Sunni territory plan is exactly in the opposite point of the territorial integrity, national interests and expedients of the Iraqi nation; this is specifically sensitive for the leaders of various political parties, resistance groups and senior religious sources of imitation.
Thirdly, the Sunni territory plan is being opposed seriously by some countries in the region. The Islamic Republic of Iran is among the most important regional countries in the region which is directly affected by the domestic developments of Iraq. It is normal for Iran to be opposing the formation of a Sunni territory which would threaten it politically with security consequences.
Fourthly, most international political, security and media reports and assessments published within the past 10 years have adopted a pessimistic view to the formation of a Sunni territory and governance in Iraq and believe it cannot be implemented given the conditions of Iraq and the wider region which they consider as being proper for the execution of this plan. A clear example is the referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan in 2017 which was nipped in the bud. This is while the geographical and demographic specifications of Iraq, as well as its religious and tribal structure and fabric in provinces proposed for the Sunni territory plan, would make it very difficult for the project to be implemented.
In the meantime, and in the belief of experts, the absence of unity of opinion about the boundary and limits of this territory, its capital center, the ruling political class, the structure of its military forces and such concerns about its consequences have caused the plan to remain an initiative and media and political idea with little expectation of implementation.
The Sunni territory project was placed on the agenda of the US foreign policy apparatus in 2007. But it cannot be implemented due to the reasons outlined above. This issue has been demonstrated for the US as the main country behind it. However, for the advancement of this project, which is related to the political determination of Iraqis to evict the American forces, the United States has resorted to some Sunni political parties and leaders who raise this project for any reason such as election competition and political struggles as well as having control over rich sources of energy and …. . Among these political leaders, there are personalities who did not fight Daesh at the time of occupation of Iraq’s Sunni-residing areas and did not prevent the killing and genocide of the Sunnis but acted to weaken the national government of Iraq.
In conclusion, it should be emphasized that the dangerous consequences of the Sunni territory project for Iraq and its security threats for the surrounding areas will not allow the emergence of this territory which is a prelude to the disintegration of Iraq.