Khanjar, who’s based out of Dubai, believes the Sunni state would attract billions of dollars in much needed investment from the Gulf Arab States and Turkey. Iraq relies on oil sales to generate almost 90 percent of its government revenue. With oil prices at historic lows, Iraq is in the midst of a major economic crisis.
Mr. Khanjar along with many Iraqi Sunni’s have long alleged economic neglect from the Shiite led government. Mr. Khanjar believes an independent Sunni state would not only bring billions of dollars in foreign investment but would allow Iraq’s Sunni’s to fairly administer their own state without needing a nod from the Shiite led government in Baghdad.
Khanjar’s proposal echoes long calls by both Sunni and Kurdish minorities for economic self determination. An independent Sunni state would mimic the current status of the de-facto independent Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. Kurdistan is home to the countries minority Kurdish population and has long claimed Baghdad’s oversight has limited its ability to negotiate independent oil exploration contracts which would provide a much needed boost to the ailing economy.
The current political instability and poverty in Iraq is exactly what gave rise to the Islamic State, the thinking goes, and allows the terrorist group to thrive throughout many major cities in Iraq.
In 2006, when Iraq was facing violence as bad as it is today, then-Sen. Joe Biden noted that Sunni regions of Iraq historically lack oil and need more investment to prosper. In the last ten years Iraq’s Western Sunni cities have only suffered more destruction, either from Shia-majority government or the marauding Islamic State.
Ali Khadery, a former State Department political advisor who spent more time in Iraq than any other government worker, told the New York Times recently, “I generally believe [Iraq] is ungovernable under the current construct.” Khadery added that independent religious states within Iraq may be the only way to stop the sectarian warfare that allows ISIS to exist, calling independent religious states, “an imperfect solution to an imperfect world.”
Under the Iraqi constitution, the country’s provinces can vote to become autonomous federal regions, capable of governing their people and commanding their own economies. Then-Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki shut down two Sunni attempts to break away to autonomy. Maliki’s sectarian purges of the Sunni elements in the Iraqi military are widely believed to have resulted in Iraqi Army retreats during the rise of ISIS in 2014.
Khanjar has hired a Washington lobbying firm, headed by former Clinton White House officials, to push the idea of a divided Iraq on Washington. The Obama admin has thusfar stonewalled Khanjar’s efforts, even denying visas to two of Khanjar’s associates who previously visited Washington and spoke out against the Shiite led Iraqi government.
In the meantime, Khanjar has teamed with former Mosul Governor Atheel Nujaifi to fund an independent Sunni force to fight the Islamic State. Khanjar claims 2400 of his private troops are fighting the Islamic State outside of Fallujah and has nearly 4000 recruits with training from Turkey.
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