Excluding Iraq’s Sahwa players (remnants of Anbar Awakening Council), Sunni figures, so far, have excluded themselves from the ‘Kurdish Independence’ debate.
The Sunni position as articulated by The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMSI), views the referendum as another scheme designed to dismember Iraq. This perspective views the vote as an extension of America’s foreign policy designs in Iraq. AMSI like others, forsee another boobytrap whereby Sunnis are given no choice but to accept rogue characters and the polity they gave life to.
The Sahwa camp, contrastingly, has adopted an opposite approach as displayed during last Thursday’s ‘Sahwa-Kurdish’ get-together. Tribal elders and former Sahwa commanders congregated in Erbil in attendance of a conference organised by Sahwa-turned politician and millionaire businessman Khamis al Khanjar.
Here it might be necessary to recount how the formation of the Sahwa movement in September 2006, under the leadership of Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, was the saving grace America needed to claim victory over Al Qaeda insurgents.
In exchange of their loyalty, promises were made but also later betrayed by retired US army general David Petraeus, the chief architect behind the Sahwa movement.
Actors deemed insignificant were given menial jobs, those high ranking Sahwa, like Abu Risha and Khanjar, were allocated spheres of influence in areas that form the ‘Sunni triangle’ across Fallujah, Ramadi, all the way to Mosul.
Their latest expression of solidarity with Kurds may in fact echo their own desire for a ‘Sunni enclave’ if and when the moment presents itself.
This was echoed by the words of Najih Mizan, spokesperson of the Sahwa conference who reassured participants that Sunnis “will participate in drafting of a Kurdish constitution and occupy genuine positions”
“Where are we headed” Mizan said addressing the crowd.
“We are here today to determine the future of Kurds in Iraq, but also to determine the future of the Sunnis”.
The chosen title of the event, "Sunni Arabs support Kurdistan" creates an impression of diversity from within the ‘Sunni camp’.
Sahwa representatives however, were the only Sunnis invited. No matter how blurred the distinction is, it is key to understanding the position of the Sunni opposition camp, led by AMSI, and their Sahwa rivals.
Support was also expressed by way of condemnation. The Sahwa camp reprimanded the central government for imposing an air and trade embargo on Iraq’s Kurdish controlled north. So long as this holds, Kurdistan will remain landlocked and defective without a sea port, airport and revenue.
The irony of the situation as AMSI is no stranger to is that both sides — whether Baghdad, the Kurdish Regional Government, or Sahwas — all share in common the same backer: America. Not every Sunni however is ready to be lured into the game America wants to play.