Reports have appeared since the Trump administration’s peace plan was unveiled in 2019 indicating that the US’s prolonged stay in western Iraq is a plot to relocate Gaza to the Anbar Desert.
Thanks to the US-backed “Deal of the Century,” there is a revived discourse among Iraqis on the settlement of Palestinians in the western Anbar desert.
Iraqi MP al-Baldawi, the al-Fatah coalition’s representative in the country’s parliament, made the following allegations as early as February 2020:
“The US is plotting to keep out Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units, or PMU) from the western provinces of Iraq, specially al-Anbar province, in a move to provide a proper ground for sheltering the Palestinians inside Iraq.”
However, the recent, covert visit to Anbar Governorate by the British ambassador to Iraq has coincided with the topic’s increasing interest.
Reports have appeared since the Trump administration peace plan was unveiled in 2019 indicating that the US’s prolonged stay in western Iraq is intended for purposes other than the establishment of military installations.
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There are rumors that the intention is to turn the Anbar desert into an “alternative homeland” for Palestinian refugees. If not for recommendations made by Israeli authorities in the wake of the 7 October Al-Aqsa Flood resistance operation and their unprecedented homicidal attack against the Gaza Strip, this idea may have stayed restricted to the domain of “conspiracy theories”.
Engineering another nakba
A study from the Israeli Ministry of Intelligence that suggested 2.4 million Palestinians be relocated from Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and other areas was released by Israeli media. Cairo and Amman angrily objected to the suggestion.
Iraq is now very interested in the idea of moving Palestinians to Anbar as a result of the plot leak. Leaders of the Iraqi political and religious establishment, such as Muqtada al-Sadr and Qais al-Khazali, as well as members of the Iraqi parliament, especially those from the Anbar Governorate, have expressed concern about the possibility of another Nakba.
Jamal al-Karbouli, the head of the National Resolution Alliance, warned “everyone who dares to go too far with the people of Anbar and donate its land to please his masters” and denounced “the suspicious projects that attempt to displace the Palestinians out of Palestine.”
The US is orchestrating the Israel-Palestine War by fully supporting the Israel army’s armed offensive against Palestinians and concealing the genocide carried out by its right-wing Israeli ally in Gaza.
Karbouli’s remarks led Parliament Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi, Anbar’s council representative, to vehemently denounce any effort to carry out the Deal of the Century in Iraq.
However, some observers, such as political analyst Mohsen al-Amiri, feel that Halbousi was compelled to respond negatively to Karbouli’s allegations: “It seems as if Anbar’s representative in parliament Al-Halbousi, who has close relations with foreign countries, especially the United Arab Emirates (the UAE has led the Arab normalization process with Israel), was trying to distance himself from these accusations.”
Hidden Agendas in Anbar
The unscheduled arrival of British Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Charles Hitchen to the Anbar Governorate coincided with the discussion surrounding the Israeli proposal to uproot the Gaza Strip’s people. At the beginning of the Arab upheavals, Hitchen led the UK Foreign Office’s Iran Political Team. She quickly rose through the ranks to oversee regional national security initiatives.
It’s important to note that Hitchen only met with the governor of Anbar, Ali Farhan al-Dulaimi, and the mayor of Ramadi, Omar Dabbous, two Taqadum Party officials with whom he had separate meetings. These people have considerable control over the Anbar Governorate’s territory and administrative divisions.
The Cradle learns from a source in the local government that the British ambassador talked about building affordable housing developments in the desert regions west of the governorate, which would be funded by Britain. He also brought up the topic of water desalination projects, however, it’s unclear what these programs’ precise goals are at this point.
The insider informs The Cradle that the governorate’s website was strictly instructed not to post any news regarding the British ambassador’s visit and to keep it private.
When US and British ambassadors visit the governorate, there are frequently media restrictions imposed, according to a journalist living in Anbar, who claims that “we only learn about these visits days or weeks later by coincidence.”
Local administration representatives were contacted in an attempt to verify this information, but some declined to speak and others insisted they were unaware of the visit. But a picture of the British envoy and the Ramadi mayor inside the city hall was managed to come to light.
The Cradle receives information from an Iraqi political source concerning the growing number of public and covert US and British visits to the governorate. The source expresses concern that Anbar could be used as a pawn in Washington’s schemes.
However, political expert Dr. Muhammad al-Anbari says he is surprised that a major power is paying a visit to a local mayor, whose duties are usually restricted to sanitary and urban administration. “Suspicious visits did not occur until after one party took control of Anbar Governorate and its government departments,” he said to The Cradle.
In December 2022, Speaker Halbousi proposed the creation of an independent territory in Anbar and alluded to the potential for the Sunni blocs to withdraw from politics. Halbousi is a powerful political figure in the governorate, which is not only the largest in terms of land size in Iraq but also encompasses the western half of the country’s desert region, extending from the Syrian border through the Jordanian border to the Saudi border.
Halbousi is holding lengthy talks with Arab tribal sheikhs in the governorate to establish the so-called autonomous Anbar, according to a political source in the governorate who asked to remain anonymous.
According to certain Iraqi political sources, the UAE and Britain are significant backers of Washington’s Deal of the Century initiative, which aims to resettle Palestinians. They mentioned the recent round of lengthy conversations Halbousi had with Emirati delegates in Baghdad and Abu Dhabi.
In addition to defying decades of US policy, Trump’s Deal of the Century recognized Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel—a decision that was sure to infuriate Arabs and Muslims worldwide.
According to numerous press reports, including one from the Ultra Iraq website in May 2019, titled “Anbar is part of the deal of the century,” this plan calls for the deportation of Palestinians, especially those from Gaza, and the establishment of a mini-state for them in an Arab nation’s desert.
The West’s ambition to reshape West Asia
“Israel aims to occupy Iraq to implement the biblical prophecy (from the Euphrates to the Nile is your country, O Children of Israel),” Qais al-Khazali, Secretary-General of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq movement, warned in a statement, urging his supporters to brace themselves for “a major upcoming battle if the country and its sanctities are exposed to any new danger.”
Adnan Abu Zaid, an Iraqi researcher residing in London, tells The Cradle that there is a plan to relocate Gaza’s population to Iraq with support from the US and Europe. However, he thinks that “at least at this stage, no one will be able to implement this plan.”
Even though the plan to move Palestinians to Anbar might not materialize right away, it is still a part of a larger US effort to reshape West Asia, which could result in the formation of tiny, sectarian mini-states that are dependent on the US and its ally, Israel, for political and economic support.
For those who are dubious about a plan to relocate over two million people, it is important to consider the continuous patterns of displacement in the larger West Asian region, which have resulted from wars fought by the US. Since the US took over Afghanistan, millions of people have been uprooted from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen.