Much debate has taken place on the topic how the Islamic State should be militarily defeated, including various combinations of US, Russian, European, Turkish, Iranian and Arab powers. However, too little is being said on the political solution after the military campaign. Maintaining united Syria and Iraq may be favored by Iran wanting to extend Shi’a rule over the Middle East or by Turkey wanting to prevent emergence of an independent Kurdish state on its southern border. Experience with the post-occupation Iraq (2013-16) clearly shows how national unity governments fail to achieve political stability in countries with progressing ethnic emancipation. In this article, I would like to describe the political solution for the Sunni Arab portions of Iraq and Syria after the defeat of the Islamic State: a temporary Turkish and Egyptian occupation.
As I argued in my previous article “Partition of Syria and Iraq: Lessons from Europe”, Iraq and Syria after the Arab Spring are different places than they used to be before. Arab Spring was mostly a Sunni Arab national revolution and the Sunni-Shi’a strife became much more about ethnic identity than religious dogmas. I argued that leaving Syria and Iraq united countries would lead to further tragedies. I showed examples of failed federations in the Third World and described why existence of united Iraq and Syria are obstacles in introduction of democracy as well as further Arab integration. Therefore, there is an urgent need for partitioning Syria and Iraq along ethno-religious lines.
In another article “Sunni Areas Post-ISIS: Occupation by Sunni Powers?”, I argued that Sunni Arab populations of Iraq and Syria are unable to govern themselves in the next few years while their ruling by the Shi’a regime in Iraq and Alawi regime in Syria lead to popularity of the cancer of Islamic State among the Sunni Arabs in the recent past. I argued that global powers like the US or Russia lost their popularity in the Middle East with their military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively. Therefore, they cannot be occupation powers in Iraq and Syria any more. I also argued why small and middle-sized countries cannot do this job after bad experience with international adventurism of their rulers like Qaddafi or Saddam. And I also mentioned why active role of Saudi Arabia and Israel are unacceptable.
Military occupation is a task that must be assigned to countries with a status of regional powers and with relatively stable political regimes and operational armies. After ruling out Saudi Arabia, the only two Sunni powers that are suitable to become occupation powers are Turkey and Egypt.
Turkish President Erdogan and Egyptian President al-Sisi stand on two opposite poles of the political spectrum in events related to the Arab Spring. Turkey was the main supporter of the revolutionary forces led by the Muslim Brotherhood while the current Egyptian regime is one of the strongholds of counterrevolution and return of the Ancient Regime. However, both Turkey and Egypt are regional powers and they are able to conduct on a responsible manner as regional powers do. Both powers have or renewed their historically good relations with the great powers—The United States, Russia and China, with another regional powers—Israel and Saudi Arabia, and their status is more or less respected by the Arab public opinion.
That is why after defeat of the Islamic State and after evacuation of Assad’s regime to the Mediterranean coast, Sunni Arab territories of Iraq and Syria should get under occupation authorities of two Sunni Muslim regional powers—Turkey and Egypt.
After July 15-16 coup attempt in Turkey, a presidential dictatorship has been installed that was previously rejected by the voters in the two elections of spring and fall 2015. Selahattin Demirtaş, leader of the pro-Kurdish parliamentary party HDP, was one of the first politicians to reject the coup and to support President Erdogan. Despite that fact, Kurdish voters became a target of oppression as their vote was the main obstacle for installing a presidential rule a year earlier. Also, hunt for sympathizers of Fethullah Gülen became a mission for the new presidential regime.
Nevertheless, the attitude of the political parties to the military coup attempt showed an unprecedented national unity among Turkish Islamists, leftists and nationalists of AKP, CHP and MHP. This unity allows for mid term political stability in Turkey. It is a guarantee for their common political interest in stability of the occupied portions of Iraq and Syria. Refocusing of the Turkish army to a military occupation of parts of Iraq and Syria could relieve Turkish population suffering under the witch-hunt against the Kurd and Gülenists.
In Egypt, the military regime is still preoccupied with eradication and elimination of the Muslim Brotherhood. This witch-hunt is accompanied with an unprecedented wave of terror and hunt for political opponents of the regime. Refocusing of the Egyptian army to a military occupation of parts of Syria and Iraq could relieve Egyptian population suffering under this terror.
Partitioning of Syria and Iraq to occupation zones ruled by regimes from the opposite poles of the spectrum of attitudes to the Arab Spring would guarantee that the Sunni parts of Iraq and Syria would not become dictatorships after withdrawal of the occupiers. Egypt would tolerate development of secular and nationalist political forces including Baathist/Assadist ones in its occupation zone. On the other hand, Turkey would attempt to restore Muslim Brotherhood in its zone. This is a prerequisite for future political pluralism in the new Sunni countries. However, eradication of relics of Islamist extremism and Jihadism would be the main task for the two occupation powers, be it linked to al-Qaeda or Islamic State, or Wahabism and Salafism promoted by Saudi Arabia.
In Syria, nine governorates can be considered predominantly Sunni Arab: Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor on the east, Aleppo and Idlib on the north, Hama and Homs in the middle and Damascus, Dara and Quneitra on the south. In Iraq, there are four old and one newly established governorates that are Sunni: Niniwe/Mosul on the north, Salahaddin and Diyala on the northeast and Anbar and the newly created Falluja (since January 2014) on the northwest. So there are 14 Sunni Arab governorates in total. They should to be split between the occupation powers—Turkey and Egypt.
Logically, an option with an equal number of governorates ruled by Turkey and Egypt, seven and seven, should be achievable. Further, northern governorates should be logically occupied by Turkey while the southern ones by Egypt. There are two dominant cities in the southern part of the Sunni Arab areas: Damascus, the Syrian capital, and Western Baghdad, a part of the Iraqi capital. Another two dominant cities with an original population of two million are in the northern part of the Sunni Arab areas: Iraqi Mosul and Syrian Aleppo. So the Turkish and Egyptian occupation zones would be equal as for the number of metropolitan areas.
The Turkish occupation zone on the north would logically include Iraqi governorates of Mosul/Niniwe, Salahaddin and Diyala and Syrian governorates of Aleppo, Raqqa, Idlib and Hama as well as metropolitan areas of Mosul and Aleppo.
The Egyptian occupation zone on the south would contain remaining two Iraqi governorates of Anbar and Falluja, and five Syrian governorates of Damascus, Dara, Homs, Deir ez-Zor and Quneitra as well as metropolitan areas of Damascus and Western Baghdad.
At the same time, it must be said that those Sunni occupation zones must exclude Kurdish and Christian portions of Diyala, Salahaddin, Niniwe, Hasakah, Raqqa, Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, Homs and Damascus governorates as well as predominantly Shi’a districts of Diyala, Salahaddin and Niniwe governorates.
Individual provincial administrations should be under direct military rule of the occupation armies. Early free elections as well as a demand that only Syrians and Iraqis should decide on their own future are unrealistic and they would result in further mass suffering. Central governments of the Sunni parts of Syria and Sunni parts of Iraq (Jezira) should be created only after several years of pacification under Turkish and Egyptian occupation authorities—something similar to post-war Germany in 1945-49 and Austria in 1945-55.
Withdrawal of the Turkish and Egyptian occupation forces could be only possible after stabilizing of the Sunni portions of Iraq and Syria and after creating of the central government of Jezira (Sunni part of Iraq) and the Sunni Syria. On these territories, two Sunni Arab states would be created: the Arab Republic of Syria with Damascus as a capital and the Arab Republic of Jezira with Mosul as its capital.
Sunni Arab refugees from Iraq and Syria to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and the EU would get an opportunity to to return to Turkish or Egyptian occupation zones of Syria or Iraq, as soon as the security situation allows that.
It is true that the Islamic State represents one of the worst political regimes that ever emerged in the Middle East, combining the most conservative attributes of Salafism with delusion and militancy of modern Jihadism and brutality and apostasy of Saddam’s and Qaddafi’s ideological militia, all wrapped in sophisticated mass manipulation techniques used by the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century and IT skills typical for the 21st century “Big Brother” regimes of Russia and China.
But the same Islamic State was successful in correction of historical injustices caused by the hundred years old Sykes-Picot Agreement and uniting the divided populations of the northern Mesopotamia, also called Jezira. The inhabitants of the Syrian territories of Mesopotamia—Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor—got an opportunity to reunite with their historical kins in northern Iraq under the rule of the Islamic State.
As the defeat of the Islamic State should bring a stable solution for Iraq and Syria, the population of the two provinces of Syrian Mesopotamia must be given an opportunity to decide in a referendum whether they prefer to remain part of Syria or become part of Jezira together with the Sunni territories of the Iraqi Mesopotamia