At a press conference today in Baghdad's green zone, both US Envoy Ryan Crocker and US military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver were being careful in what they said about a proposed wall which would isolate a Sunni neighbourhood from its Shiite neighbours. Yesterday, Iraqi Prime Minister Malki had said he would order a halt to the wall's contruction but neither US spokesman would confirm that this would actually happen, with Garver actually refusing comment when directly asked the question. Instead, both were at pains to stress that the wall was for security.
``Obviously we will respect the wishes of the government and the prime minister,'' Crocker said at a news conference. ``I'm not sure where we are right now concerning our discussions on how to move forward on this particular issue.''This has the potential to be an enormous setback for Maliki and for the "surge". Respecting wishes and having dialogues is simply not the same as doing what the government of a supposedly sovereign nation, where US forces are technically guests there by invite, wishes.
But he defended the principle behind the Azamiyah barrier, saying it was aimed at protecting the community, not segregating it.
As he spoke, hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets in the area in northern Baghdad to protest the wall's construction, which residents have complained would isolate them from the rest of the city.
Crocker said the intention of the barrier in Azamiyah as well as those constructed around markets in the capital is ``to try and identify where the fault lines are and where avenues of attack lie and set up the barriers literally to prevent those attacks.''
``It is in no one's intention or thinking that this is going to be a permanent state of affairs,'' he added.
...U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver declined to comment on whether construction of the wall would stop, saying only that all security measures were constantly under discussion.
``We will coordinate with the Iraqi government and Iraqi commanders in order to establish effective, appropriate security measures,'' he said.
If the US refuses, then it becomes clear that a) they are still occupiers, not protectors, b) Maliki isn't strong enough to get the US to do what his government wants and c) comparisons to a wall far closer in time and space to Iraq than the Berlin wall will gain traction..
A wall around Azamiyah may well help cut attacks there - although the AP's report notes that most attacks in the district have been by mortars, which sail over walls - but if the US continues to be seen as working parallels to Israel's occupation of Palestine then it's likely that it will create more violence overall rather than less. Which suggests very strongly that the Bush administration's strategy right now consists entirely of frantic casting about for an excuse to declare victory and exit.