London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Sunni leadership sources in Amman and Istanbul revealed that “Iraqi Sunni figures have held many meetings in Istanbul with a view to forming a Sunni authority and to pave the way for the creation of an Arab Sunni region in Iraq.” Furthermore, they pointed out that “the Association of Muslim Scholars, led by Harith al-Dhari, participated in these meetings with former Iraqi MP Adnan al-Dulaimi, a representative of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, and a number of Sunni groups”.
These sources spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday via telephone, under the condition of anonymity. They said that “Iraqi Arab Sunni figures have convened for three meetings in Istanbul, two of which were preliminary, while the founding conference was held ten days ago”. Additionally, they pointed out that “despite the absence of Turkish participation in these meetings – the Turks have never declared their intentions to form a Sunni region – Turkey has at least hosted and sponsored them. What was once thought to be mere rumors has today transformed into practical, openly declared action”.
Meanwhile, a source close to al-Hashimi denied participating in the meetings. Bashar Muhammad Faydi, member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, told Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone yesterday from Amman: “We did not attend these meetings; we did not sit down with Adnan al-Dulaimi or any other advocate of the creation of a Sunni region, or the foundation of a Sunni authority”. Furthermore, he underlined that “the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq is against sectarianism and it does not present itself as a Sunni authority or a representative of the Sunnis of Iraq”.
On the other hand, another source close to al-Hashimi described the meetings that took place in Istanbul as “merely a series of dialogues between Iraqis committed both to Iraq and the Sunnis, who have suffered and continue to suffer discrimination. The Sunni leadership is divided and there is no unity in its decisions or practices”. The source denied that “Vice President [al-Hashemi] or his representative participated in these meetings, which discussed the idea of forming a political authority, not a religious one, to address the conditions of the Sunnis who do not know what direction things are moving in Iraq”. He stipulated that “there is no project, sign or plan of action, but rather the meetings held in Istanbul merely debated current issues”. This source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from Istanbul, stated that “it is necessary to unite the efforts of the Sunnis and protect them from discrimination, in order to ensure their national political role in the building of Iraq, and to achieve a dignified life for all Iraqis away from sectarianism”.