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Regime Change, Partition, and “Sunnistan”: John Bolton’s Vision for a New Middle East

Bolton is likely to push for the creation of a new sectarian state out of Syrian and Iraqi territory, now that the groundwork has been laid and the path largely cleared to building a “new Middle East.” Iran is currently the only country in the region with the potential to foil that plan.

by Whitney Webb

Part 8 - Syria and Iraq partition: playing with the map

Beyond pushing for regime change in Iran, John Bolton has long demonstrated his commitment to helping Israel and its allies entirely remake the Middle East and thus fundamentally change the region’s balance of power. A key part of this has been the partition of other secular, independent nations in the Middle East, namely Syria and Iraq. It is largely for this reason that Bolton, a major advocate of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, still stands by the disastrous war — because it was an essential precursor to Iraq’s partition.

A major part of the groundwork for partition, the invasion of Iraq, and the current Syrian conflict, was laid out in the neo-conservative manifesto “A Clean Break,” whose lead author Richard Perle is Bolton’s mentor, and who, along with Bolton, later co-founded the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Another co-author, David Wurmser, also went on to become an advisor to Bolton.

The title of the document comes from its suggestion that Israel make a “clean break from the slogan ‘comprehensive peace’ to a traditional concept of strategy based on the balance of power.” The manifesto states: “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.

A Clean Break” also calls for “reestablishing the principle of preemption” — i.e., preemptive war — as well as the creation of a “new Middle East.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq that Bolton helped manifest (and that he continues to support) fulfilled several of the objectives laid out in “A Clean Break,” by removing Saddam Hussein from power and altering the region’s “balance of power.” Yet, now, with Saddam long gone and Syria weakened after years of fighting off foreign-funded proxies, the next step needed to cement this “new Middle East” is the partitioning of both Syria and Iraq.

The first argument for partitioning Iraq was made in 1982 by Zionist strategist Oded Yinon, whose plan – often called the Yinon plan or the plan for “Greater Israel” — calls for dividing Iraq into separate statelets for Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. It similarly calls for the division of other secular Arab states, like Syria, into smaller states divided along ethnic or sectarian lines that are constantly at war with each other in order to ensure that Israel “becomes an imperial regional power.

Unsurprisingly, Bolton has, since leaving his post in the Bush administration, consistently advocated for partitioning both Syria and Iraq. In 2014, Bolton asserted that Iraq was inevitably “headed toward partition.” In 2015, on Fox News, Bolton stated: “I think our objective should be a new Sunni state out of the western part of Iraq, the eastern part of Syria run by moderates or at least authoritarians who are not radical Islamists.

A few months later, Bolton – in a New York Times op-ed – detailed his plan to create the Sunni state out of northeastern Syria and western Iraq, which he nicknames “Sunni-stan.” He asserts that such a country has “economic potential” as an oil producer, would be a “bulwark” against the Syrian government and “Iran-allied Baghdad,” and would help defeat Daesh (ISIS). Bolton’s mention of oil is notable, as the proposed area for this Sunni state sits on key oil fields that U.S. oil interests, such as ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers, have sought to control if the partition of Iraq and Syria comes to pass.

Bolton also suggested that Arab Gulf States “could provide significant financing,” adding that “the Arab monarchies like Saudi Arabia must not only fund much of the new state’s early needs, but also ensure its stability and resistance to radical forces.” He fails to note that Saudi Arabia is one of the chief financiers of Daesh and largely responsible for spreading “radical” Wahhabi Islam throughout the Middle East.

Notably, Bolton directly mentions who would benefit from this partition, and it certainly isn’t the Syrians or the Iraqis. “Restoring Iraqi and Syrian governments to their former borders,” Bolton writes, “is a goal fundamentally contrary to American, Israeli and friendly Arab state interests.

Control of northeastern Syria, currently occupied by U.S. forces, is set to be given to Saudi Arabia if the Saudis commit to spending $4 billion to “rebuild” the area, a first step towards preventing the reunification of Syria and creating an “independent” sectarian state. Bolton, as national security adviser, is likely to push for the creation of a new sectarian state out of Syrian and Iraqi territory, now that the groundwork has been laid and the path largely cleared to building a “new Middle East.” However, as previously mentioned, Iran is currently the only country in the region with the potential to foil the plan to fundamentally reshape the Middle East.

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