While the idea of relocating Palestinians to Iraq’s Anbar region may appear improbable, western-backed conflicts have already displaced millions in the region – many of which appear to be demographically-engineered.
The settlement of Palestinians in the Anbar desert, western Iraq, has become a topic of renewed discussion among Iraqis, thanks to the US-championed “Deal of the Century.”
As far back as February 2020, Iraqi MP al-Baldawi, the representative of the al-Fatah coalition in Iraq’s parliament, was alleging:
“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.”
But now, the renewed interest in the topic coincides with the recent, unpublicized visit of the British ambassador to Iraq to Anbar Governorate.
Since the unveiling of the Trump era peace plan in 2019, reports have surfaced suggesting that the continued US presence in western Iraq has broader intentions beyond establishing military bases.
It is speculated that the goal is to create an “alternative homeland” for Palestinian refugees in the Anbar desert. This notion might have remained confined to the realm of “conspiracy theories” if it weren’t for suggestions made by Israeli leaders following the 7 October Al-Aqsa Flood resistance operation, and their unprecedented genocidal aggression against the Gaza Strip.
Engineering another nakba
Israeli media leaked a document issued by the Israeli Ministry of Intelligence, proposing the displacement of 2.4 million Palestinians from Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and other regions, a proposal strongly rejected by both Cairo and Amman.
The leaked plan has renewed serious Iraqi interest in the potential project to displace Palestinians to Anbar. Concerns of another Nakba have been echoed in statements from Iraqi political and religious leaders, including leading figures like Muqtada al-Sadr and Qais al-Khazali, as well as representatives of the Iraqi parliament – particularly those hailing from Anbar Governorate.
The leader of the National Resolution Alliance, Jamal al-Karbouli, condemned “the suspicious projects that attempt to displace the Palestinians out of Palestine,” and warned “everyone who dares to go too far with the people of Anbar and donate its land to please his masters..
Karbouli’s statements prompted Parliament Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi, the representative of Anbar in the council, to emphatically reject any attempt to implement the Deal of the Century in Iraq.
But observers like political analyst Mohsen al-Amiri believe that Karbouli’s claims forced Halbousi into issuing a denial: “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 discussion surrounding the Israeli plan to displace the population of the Gaza Strip coincided with the unannounced visit of British Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Charles Hitchen to Anbar Governorate. Hitchen headed up the UK Foreign Office’s Iran Political Team at the start of the Arab uprisings, and moved up the ranks quickly to direct national security efforts in the entire region.
It’s worth noting that Hitchen’s meetings were limited to two Taqadum Party officials, whom he met separately, namely the Governor of Anbar Ali Farhan al-Dulaimi, and Ramadi Mayor Omar Dabbous. These individuals hold significant authority over administrative units and lands in the Anbar Governorate.
A source within the local administration informs The Cradle that the British ambassador discussed the construction of low-cost housing complexes to be financed by Britain in the desert areas to the west of the governorate. He also mentioned water desalination projects, although the exact nature and purpose of these initiatives remain undisclosed.
The source tells The Cradle that there were strict instructions to keep the visit of the British ambassador confidential and not to publish any news about it on the governorate’s website.
An Anbar-based journalist explains that there are often media blackouts imposed on visits by US and British ambassadors to the governorate, saying “we only learn about these visits days or weeks later by coincidence.”
Despite attempts to confirm this information from local administration officials, some refused to comment, and others claimed they had no knowledge of the visit. However, a photograph was obtained showing the British ambassador meeting with the mayor of Ramadi inside the municipal building.
An Iraqi political source tells The Cradle about the increasing frequency of American and British visits, both public and secret, to the governorate, fearing that Anbar might be manipulated to serve Washington’s agendas.
But political analyst Dr. Muhammad al-Anbari expresses surprise at the visit of a representative of a major power to a local mayor whose responsibilities are typically limited to urban management and sanitation. He tells The Cradle: “These suspicious visits did not occur until after one party took control of Anbar Governorate and its government departments.”
In December 2022, Speaker Halbousi hinted at the possibility of the Sunni blocs leaving the political process and suggested the formation of an independent region in Anbar. Halbousi wields significant political influence in the governorate, which is not only Iraq’s largest in terms of geographical area, but also spans a desert region that extends from the Syrian border through the Jordanian border to the Saudi border, representing the western part of the country.
A political source in the governorate, who requested to remain anonymous, confirms that Halbousi is holding extensive meetings with Arab tribal sheikhs in the governorate to create the so-called autonomous Anbar.
Some Iraqi political sources view these actions as supporting Washington’s Deal of the Century project, aimed at resettling Palestinians – with the UAE and Britain identified as major supporters. They noted extensive meetings between Halbousi and Emirati representatives in Abu Dhabi and Baghdad in recent months.
Trump’s Deal of the Century also broke with decades of US policy by recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, a move guaranteed to upset Arabs and Muslims everywhere.
This plan includes the displacement of Palestinians, particularly those from Gaza, and the creation of a small state for them in an Arab country’s desert, as reported in various press articles, including one from the Ultra Iraq website in May 2019, titled “Anbar is part of the deal of the century.”
The west’s ambition to reshape West Asia
Secretary-General of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq movement Qais al-Khazali warned, in a statement, that “Israel aims to occupy Iraq to implement the biblical prophecy (from the Euphrates to the Nile is your country, O Children of Israel),” calling on his supporters to prepare for “a major upcoming battle if the country and its sanctities are exposed to any new danger.”
Speaking to The Cradle, London-based Iraqi researcher Adnan Abu Zaid says that there is a US and European-backed plan to displace the people of Gaza and resettle them in Iraq. But he believes that “no one will be able to implement this plan, at least at the current stage.”
While the plan to relocate Palestinians to Anbar may not be immediately attainable, it remains a part of a broader US effort to reshape the West Asian region, potentially leading to the creation of small sectarian mini-states that may lack political or economic independence from the influence of the US and its ally, Israel.
For those skeptical of a plan to displace more than two million people from one country to another, it is worth taking into account the ongoing displacement trends in the wider West Asian region – much of it caused by western wars – which has seen millions uprooted from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen since the US occupation of Afghanistan.