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22 April 2007


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According to press reports. Maliki said in Egypt that he had ordered the U.S to stop construction of the wall. He said it reminded him too much of another "wall" to the detriment of arabs. We'll have to see how this conflict of wills plays out.

Chris Stiles

If it won't work for only one reason, it'll be because it is too redolent of the Israeli/Palestinian security fence.


Have you seen the American Embassy in London lately? With all the concrete barriers, barbed wire, and armed guards, we've made posh and pretty Grosvenor Square look like Beirut circa 1980.

Does anyone wonder why our international influence is waning?


I was in Iraq (Taji) recently, and discussed Adamiyah with soldiers that had it as part of their AO.

They said residents were building their own walls to keep out intruders. The soldiers seemed to think that was a fine idea, a relatively passive way to tamp down violence.

I certainly find COL Lang's view more informed than most of the stuff that is written on this topic.

My guess is that for every Dulaimi (a name that is not a good one as far as our soldiers are concerned) there are 10 residents that would be quite happy if the wall created more security.

I suppose we could have consulted, but the likely result would be either a mixed or dictated message.


One issue that does not get much coverage by the corporate media is the refugee crisis created by the anarchy in Iraq. It's estimated that between 5-10% of the Iraqi population have been displaced. I have seen reports of over a million Iraqi refugees in Syria alone. This human tragedy gets no press, gets no concern by the Decider or our Congress and even worse the American people don't seem to care for the victims that our government was instrumental in creating.

For all the war cheerleaders everything is an abstraction. But for these refugees its all too real. If only the Decider, Shooter, Wolfie, Rummy and all those that banged the drums could just experience one day in the life of the displaced. What a shame and tragedy!

W. Patrick Lang


You probably know that Dulaim is the name of just about all the bedouin tribal septs in Anbar Provoince. The US Government is assiduously courting them.

A couple of people have said something about the "historical context" that I provide. I take that to be a reflection of the attitude toward history of most Americans.

In the Middle East the past is. It is not "historical context." pl

Ben P

This is the thing, it seems to me:

IF the US military were simply trying to control Baghdad as a part of a plan to keep Iraq under American rule, these tactics could be effective.

Likewsie, if these policies were clearly being implemented at Maliki's command with Iraqi forces out front and US forces on the sidelines watching, it could work.

But it is neither. The latest poll I've seen - from March - showed that 59% of Iraqis think the US is really running the country, not the gov't.

So operations like this walls and scans strategy only serve to reinforce Maliki's ineffecutality and the reality that America really is still running the country. I don't see how this strategy can legitimize the Iraqi government.

Another thing to add is that the whole sectarian construct is less entrenched then I think many in the US think it might be. At least theoretically - and I should point out that this is primarily THEORETIC at this point - Iraqis are by and large opposed to anything that smacks of sectarianism. Thus, actions like this one serve to reinforce beliefs that the US's real goal is and has been to divide, weaken and destroy a proud Arab nation (nevermind that what exactly this nation should look like is very diff't depending on who you talk to). Again, this does not work to legitimize the US's political process, but does the exact oppostie.

The only logic I can see is that the assumption is is that security became so bad that anything that works to improve security is a good, no matter what other costs come with it. And that these issues can be dealt with later. As my above points suggest, I doubt this is so.

Ben P

I should add: the more I think about this plan, it makes me sick.

I was actually somewhat favorably disposed to the Petraeus COIN plan until I found out about this. They've tried stuff like this elsewhere in Iraq and it hasn't worked - for example, in Fallujah.

Besiseds some of the impact on Iraqi opinion I think it will have - neagative - I think this will be a public relations disaster in the Arab world as a whole. Even moderate Saudi financed publications like Al-Hayat are sounding the alarm. The resonance/connection to Palestine are too acute.

I really, really question the wisdom of some fo the so-called COIN wise men they've called in. I really don't think they thought this through enough.


COL Lang: yup, I know. I also saw a lot of reports. As I said, not a good name. I guess if we're courting they haven't said yes.

Clifford Kiracofe

History, culture, foreign policy...hmm:

"The political divisions which prevail in the Near East today should not blind us to the underlying cultural and psychological unity of the region as a whole....the far-reaching interdependence of the local states and territories imposes on the interested foreign power the obligation to approach the entire region as a unit...any foreign policy in the Near East which is not a comprehensive regional policy is an invitation to bankruptcy...."
E.A. Speiser, The United States and the Near East (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1947), pp. 226-227.

Professor Speiser was professor of semitics at the University of Pennsylvania. But there is a more interesting bio. He was Director of the American School of Oriental Research in Baghdad and was an authority on Mesopotamia. During WWII, he was Head of the Near East Section of the Research and Analysis Branch of the OSS.

Americans have been in the region since the early 19th century and there are no excuses at all for current US policy. Most certainly not the excuse "If we had only known..." We did know, we do know.

Dick, Houston, Texas

A wall is a wall is a wall is a wall. Actions are based on perceptions, and this wall is perceived as a unilateral imposition by the occupiers. Sure, it could have worked if thought out and approached in a different way - involving a perceived mutual effort by the Iraqi government AND the Sunnis and neighborhood residents, with the Americans as just suppliers, construction superintendants, and extra security. But, come on, isn't what actually did take place so typical of our totally inept conduct of this war? - the capability of General Patreaus (sp.) notwithstanding!

W. Patrick Lang

Dick of Houston

No. All walls are not equal. The Baghdadis and everyone else in the Arab World know that this would be an admission that the country must be divided. pl

Got A Watch

It seems that now the construction of Baghdad's Wallistan has been halted for good. I see a low probability that the new "oil Law" will be passed by the Iraqi Parliament, it is too unpopular with Iraqi's and mustering a majority to vote for it looks beyond reach, even with vast American twisting of arms behind the scenes. The "Iraqi Army" isn't standing up as fast as they are staying at home or being killed by insurgents. Overall levels of violence have not been reduced, they have just re-located to greener pastures to wait out the "surge".

So the "benchmarks" are well on track to fall totally short of American goals. Iraqi goals are not mentioned. Since the next oft-discussed "BenchMark Time" of ongoing assessment was supposed to be Mid-June, only 7 weeks away, the conclusions don't look very good for a Report Card. "F"'s all around I'd say. The insurgents get a "B+", and a Gold Star for after-school effort.

Leads to the next question - what now? The "W" (for Withdrawal, or whispered as "D" for Defeat) word is rising in frequency of mention.

Will failure in Iraq prevent attack on Iran? The Benchmark's say "no attack" but McCain is still singing "Bomb, Bomb, Iran." Dick Cheney still shoots at ayatollah shaped cardboard targets. Too close to call.

My guess, we are no more than 1 or 2 Friedman's away from the end of the present "status quo" dis-equilibrium.


I wonder who wants the country divided. Who benefits from a divided Iraq?

I dont think Iraqis want it.I dont think there is an Iraqi secterian problem as such. There is an Al Qaeda/ Shia problem that is spilling and bleeding into a secterian problem. But the fact that the Sadrists and the Sunni Insurgency are and have been in contact is evidence enough in my opinion that if the coalition exits, rather than civil war, those focusing their time and attention on Western foreign elements will be able to then focus their resources on other "foreign" elements.

A divided nation seems to me to be an obvious goal for the White House. The advantages of having a seperate Kurdish state to the North, with access to much of Iraqs oil and the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates, that is pro-western and as imporantly, pro-Israeli, are manifold.

They would be idiotic in the extreme not to have that as a major goal.

Larry Mitchell

Iraq seems to be reminding Chuck Hagel of Vietnam too. Here's a link to his editorial in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/20/AR2007042002007.html


It's not just the wall. They're planning on fingerprinting and eye-scanning the residents so that only they will be allowed in, making the neighborhood a prison--or a zoo. Yeah, that'll work!

Reminds me of the ancient Greek tourist in Sparta marvelling that it had no defensive wall. "Sparta's soldiers are Sparta's wall," he was told.


The partitioning of Iraq


Iraq is an artificial country with no natural unity, created by the British after the 1914-18 war. Under the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was divided into three vilayets (provinces): Shia Basra in the south, Sunni-dominated Baghdad in the centre, and Kurdish Mosul in the north. Partition now would assume a similar shape.

Partition is the best solution for the sectarian enmities that have reduced Iraq to civil war. Iraq's Government of National Unity is not united and is incapable of governing.

The examples of former Yugoslavia and India/Pakistan show that partition is the answer when peoples cannot live peaceably together.

There is no longer an Iraqi nation (if there ever was one): there are Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shia Arabs. Partitioning Iraq is a recognition of realities.

Partition offers a get-out for the US and Britain. Troops could be pulled out sooner.



The Iraqi state has lasted for more than 80 years. There is now an Iraqi nation. The present conflict - brought upon Iraq not by its people, but through an invasion - is about who dominates, not about separation or secession.

The sectarian bloodshed will get worse. Proposals for partition ignore the reality of Baghdad (population 6 million) which is divided between Sunnis and Shias. Attempts to partition Iraq will make Bosnia look like a tea-party.

Iran will dominate the oil-rich Shia south, which will destabilize Iraq's Sunni neighbours.

Turkey to the north, with 14 million Kurds, fears the establishment of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan, and Turkey is the West's most valuable ally in the Middle East.

Failure to create a democratic Iraqi state or federation will represent a humiliating defeat for Bush and Blair in the War on Terror, and a victory for Iran and al-Qaeda.


Has any partition or wall worked well in the past?


I agree with what I take to be the position that some have noted here. How in the world could the US have done this (built a wall)absent the approval of the 'govt'. And now, given the latest statement from Ambassador Crocker, we may go ahead with the wall despite the position of the 'govt'. Or at least the public statement of the PM.Its naive of me to ask this but how, at this stage of the thing, can they/we still be so dumb/arrogant? Were we set up? Did we get approval that has now been withdrawn?

Mike G

Belfast was divided up into a series of Catholic and Protestant ghettoes in an attempt to reduce sectarian violence during the troubles. The walls were a limited success in that they did keep the communities apart and prevented Prods and Papists fighting each other at the interfaces between the various religious turfs. But they did not end the problem of Northern Ireland. Violence continued, the paramilitery IRA and UVF etc carried on attacking each other and the IRA attacked the British forces and Ulster police, and nothing was really solved. The present settlement only came when negotiations were opened between all parties concerned - the British and Irish governments, and the Republican and Loyalist militants, all umpired by the Americans at the time of the Clinton administration. There is no military solution to such a situation, only a political one. Walls (Belfast, Berlin, Nicosia, Israel-Palestine, and now Baghdad) are surely symbols of failure, perpetuators of division, injustice, hatred, and distrust. Jaw jaw is better than war war as Churchill said: some time, if any solution to the fracture of Iraq is to be found, all parties will have to sit down and talk - which means that the US will have to sit at the same table as the insurgents


I hear the wall comments and it gives me pause, but I'd like to say that I know for a fact that the residents were putting up blast walls, barriers and checkpoints in that neighborhood long before we started building the wall.

I do not see good alternatives, maybe others have ideas? I certainly do not want a heavy American presence in that neighborhood, the IA is nothing but a Shia militia, and locally provided security would be heavily infiltrated by AQ or similar.


Re: The wall; it seems as if the US has thrown in the trowel (ahem), gracefully agreeing to Iraqi wishes. Would this have been part of the original plan, as in 'without x results in 6 weeks we will construct a wall'? Are there any kind of quantitative or quantifiable objectives in this surge tactic?
It's off-topic perhaps but one of the things that is most peculiar to me is that after 4 years there still seems to so little awareness of or interest in Arab/Muslim sensibility and history. My friends tell me this is what bothers them the most. Further off-topic - does anyone know of any interactions between Americans and Iraqis that have resulted in conversion, marriages, etc.? If so, would appreciate a source/link.



The primary measure of the effects of walls in Baghdad is whether their erection prompts Al-Sadr to continue his support of Maliki, or to remove it. How long can Maliki stay in power without Al-Sadr's support?

Clifford Kiracofe

Noting the graphic of Cordoba with the post, here is something positive to go along with it, info on Ghada Shbeir's cd "Al-Muwashahat" and you can play short takes by clicking on left: http://cdbaby.com/cd/shbeir

Her website has an interesting press section:

I remember an elderly qanun player at the Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad before the Gulf War. Wonder what has happened to him.


As discussed on SST in the recent past one of the consequences of the "surge" strategy was to leave our troops exposed in ouposts. The insurgents are adapting with deadly effect as witnessed by a suicide bomb attack today that killed 9 soldiers.

This post by Needlenose brings together several news reports.


MarcLord: personally, I view Al Maliki and Sadr as largely agreeing on strategy, even if they disagree on tactics.

Al Maliki is there to modulate the American effort to provide maximum benefit to the Shia, Sadr is there to play the bad cop and marshal the Shia masses. Neither is very interested in our definition of "reconciliation".

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