Backtrack: No wall in Baghdad
The American ambassador said Monday the U.S. would "respect the wishes" of the Iraqi government after the prime minister ordered a halt to construction of a three-mile wall separating a Sunni enclave from surrounding Shiite areas in Baghdad.
Any plan to build "gated communities" to protect Baghdad neighborhoods from sectarian attacks was in doubt after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said during a visit to Sunni-led Arab countries that he did not want the 12-foot-high wall in Azamiyah to be seen as dividing the capital's sects.
This being Iraq, however, communication is not always the clearest:
Confusion persisted about whether the plan would continue in some form: The chief Iraqi military spokesman said Monday the prime minister was responding to exaggerated reports about the barrier.
"We will continue to construct the security barriers in the Azamiyah neighborhood. This is a technical issue," Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said. "Setting up barriers is one thing and building barriers is another. These are moveable barriers that can be removed."
Al-Moussawi noted similar walls were in place elsewhere in the capital — including in other residential neighborhoods — and criticized the media for focusing on Azamiyah.
Including, apparently, his boss. Which may be where the real communication issues lies.
Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman, indicated that there may have been a miscommunication.
"Discussions on a local level may not have been conveyed to the highest levels of the Iraqi government," Garver said.
It could also just be grandstanding, giving al-Maliki an opportunity to show his independence from the United States.
The Shiite leader is on a regional tour seeking support for his government among mostly Sunni Arab nations. His comments about the barrier may have been aimed at appeasing them and Sunnis at home, despite his assurances to the Americans that there would be no political influence over tactical decisions.
Al-Maliki has a tough line to walk between political and military objectives, no doubt. But any military plan must take those political realities into account. And if that creates an impossible situation, then something has to give on either the military or the political front. And we would need to evaluate or continued presence in Iraq in light of that revealed reality.
Iraq, politics, midtopia