Nouri al-Maliki ready to oust
U.S. from Iraq green zone

Marie Colvin in Baghdad


[London] Sunday Times

July 13, 2008



The green zone of Baghdad, a highly fortified slice of American suburbia on the banks of the Tigris river, may soon be handed over to Iraqi control if the increasingly assertive government of Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, gets its way.

A senior Iraqi government official said this weekend the enclave should revert to Iraqi control by the end of the year. “We think that by the end of 2008 all the zones in Baghdad should be integrated into the city,” said Ali Dabbagh, the government’s spokesman.

“The American soldiers should be based in agreed camps outside the cities and population areas.

“By the end of the year, there will be no green zone,” he added. “The separation by huge walls makes people feel angry.” Dabbagh acknowledged that getting rid of the green zone would be a huge undertaking, given the thousands of American soldiers, private contractors and foreign workers who live inside. He said the concrete walls that divide it from the rest of the city would be taken down slowly, “depending on the threat and circumstances”.

The prospect may prove disconcerting for the Americans, who have just begun to transfer their diplomatic operations in the zone from Saddam Hussein’s Republican Palace to a new embassy, the largest and most expensive in the world.

The £300m building, at the heart of the green zone, protected by blast walls and layers of barbed wire, is the size of the Vatican City. It is virtually a self-contained town, with a heli-pad, sewerage and water treatment plants, a telephone exchange with a Virginia dialling code, a swimming pool and a bombproof gym. It will contain 619 blast-resistant flats.

Under the Baghdad government’s plan the embassy will remain but the Iraqis will take back the five-square-mile secure “bubble” surrounding it.

The green zone, which was built after the US-led invasion in 2003 as a safe administrative hub, has long infuriated Iraqis. It sliced off neighbouring districts from one another.

Mortars fall in the area but the kidnappings, car bombs and lack of water and electricity in the rest of the country seem remote to its inhabitants. Many American visitors never leave except to fly by helicopter to Baghdad airport.

The call for the “liberation” of the zone reflects Maliki’s growing confidence after military victories that have prompted him to declare that terrorism has been defeated.

Readers’ Comments

This is the time all Americans have quietly wished for during this war. that the Iraqi PM thinks they are ready on this time table is fantastic. If it is a mistake it is their mistake to make as a free people and we all should support this for both our sakes. Mission accomplished!

Dennis Winchell, Cape Coral, USA

This is called 'progress.' It's what the US wanted all along: an independent Iraq. Over here in the States, we consider this good news, and hope the Iraqis can handle it.

Einah Teb, Los Angeles,

It is absolutely sickening to see a comment like Cybella's, bemoaning shed "American blood" in Iraq, while the blood shed by a million Iraqis does not even rate a mention.

America launched an unprovoked war of aggression that has caused a human tragedy that history will remember.

kumbaya, amityville,

How dare al-Maliki, a mere Iraqi, tell the US what to do. Who the hell does he think he is…Ehud Olmert?

Phil Ishmael, Liverpool, England

I see .... al--Maliki spuriously derives confidence from America's military victories derived from American blood shed enabling him to declare terrorism defeated in Iraq, even as he claims reconstruction triumphs from American treasure generously given towards the birth of a free and rich Iraq.

Cybella, Porter Ranch,

I'm sure the Iraqis can handle it. Once we took our boot off the necks of the Anbar residents and started working with them like equals, Al Qaeda was defeated. I never could understand the theory that 10,000 (various estimates) AQ's could conquer a country of 25 million.

duane lominac, las vegas, USA

Question to James Bennett: which country is the Green Zone in?

Arth Denton, Easton, USA

Why should they cry for US to return? Iran is next door. Keeping US away from Middle East is the best choice for everyone. US is known with immoral administration.

Don't touch them, if you don't want them to touch you....Learn from history..

Mike, La Habra, USA

I was in the green zone from 2005-2007 and am going back soon. I don't think the area is ready for such a big step as turning over the zone to the Iraq Government.

If they do follow through with the turnover by end of 2008 it won't last long and then he will be crying for the US to return.

James Bennett, Milton, USA