The United States has revived its Bush-era plan to create an autonomous Sunni region in Anbar, Iraq. An independent Sunni state would further US influence on the region. But while this would provide a way for US forces to stay in western Asia, the plan, first rolled out in 2007, would destabilize the power balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia and increase tensions between Iran, a Shia power, and Saudi Arabia, a Sunni power. Both vie for cultural supremacy in the region.
Americans are the primary beneficiaries of the plan. The United States would retain its presence in Western Asia after Iraq demanded American troops remove themselves following President Donald Trump’s January 3, 2020 order to assassinate Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani on Iranian soil.
Sunni Iraqis are secondary beneficiaries. They would receive their own region—a large portion of Iraq—with largely untapped natural resources, within a Shia state. But tertiary beneficiaries include Saudi Arabia and Israel, who would see Iran’s influence in the region decrease, if even slightly. Iran and Iraq are both harmed by this proposal, the former by the increased Sunni control in the region and the latter by losing administrative control over a valuable amount of land.
Al-Monitor also ran an article on this development, while Al Jazeera published an opinion piece on the same topic.
Source: Suadad al-Salhy, “US Seeking to Carve out Sunni State as Its Influence in Iraq Wanes,” Middle East Eye, January 23, 2020, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-seeking-carve-out-sunni-state-its-influence-iraq-wanes.
Student Researcher: Jasper Watrich (University of Regina)
Faculty Evaluator: Sayda Momtaha Habib (University of Regina)