A group of Sunni tribes has hired Washington D.C. consultants to make the case for forming their own semi-independent region in Iraq, according to documents filed with the Justice Department.
Ali Hatem al-Suleiman, who leads Iraq's largest Sunni tribe, has signed with Calex Partners' principal Jonathan Greenhill, reports The Hill.
The agency will set up meetings with congressional offices, organizations, and corporations to further the Sunnis' goals.
"Currently, U.S. policy does not envision the formation of a semi-autonomous region. It is this policy that the registrant seeks to change," forms filed with the Justice Department say.
Greenhill is a former CIA senior operations officer, and has experience in the Middle East. The tribes want their own region, like one held by the Kurds in Iraq, and to operate their own semi-autonomous government.
The Sunnis, who had dominated Iraq under former President Saddam Hussein, have been at odds with outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shiite administration, and some have gone on to support the Islamic State (ISIS) and its efforts to form a caliphate in the Middle East.
As a result of the Sunnis' involvement with ISIS, the United States has been wary of dealing with the tribes, but Iraq's new administration, led by Haider al-Abadi, is making efforts to include the Sunni tribes. In response, the tribal leaders have said they will back Abadi if he agrees to meet "certain conditions."
Sunnis are calling for violence to end in Sunni areas and for the Iraqi government to provide reparations for displaced people, according to Reuters, and now the semi-autonomous region may also fall under discussions.
Other tribal organizations have already employed consultants from the United States to help them achieve their goals as well.
The Common Council of Iraqi and Arabic Tribes, which Suleiman also runs, hired Mark Alsalih to represent it this summer.
Alsalih said that he has been trying to get the Obama administration to collaborate more with Iraqi and Syrian tribes, according to Al-Monitor
, as part of its battle against ISIS.
"The U.S. needs to work hand in hand with the Sunnis that have the on-the-ground intel and that are being targeted by ISIS," he said. "The tribes can identify with great accuracy where ISIS is, who's supporting them, how they're getting their money and even where they sleep at night."
However, the Obama administration does not want to set up such visits because it feels it would go against work to create a more inclusive government in Iraq.
"US officials are in regular discussions with Iraqi groups across the diverse spectrum that makes up Iraqi politics, including Sunni tribal leaders, about how best to address their concerns and aspirations in a new government," an unnamed State Department official told Al-Monitor. "However, the primary focus for all Iraqis right now needs to be working together to finalize government formation so that these issues can be addressed."
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