Iraq’s Partition Inches Forward with a New Baghdad Wall
As Iraq lurches from crisis to calamity, its disintegration into disparate regions and communities picks up speed. Baghdad is forging ahead towards separation. This week, work began on a high wall to enclose the Iraqi capital against the sectarian and extremist terrorist attacks plaguing it since shortly after the 2003 US invasion. The Shiite-dominated Iraqi government has determined to shutter Baghdad against the ferocious contests raging in the north and the west of the country.
The Sunni Muslim communities are adamantly opposed to the Baghdad wall project, fearing that it is the first stage of the rise of a separate Shiite state ruling from Baghdad. They see the separation of the capital as further polarizing Iraq’s strife-ridden society.
Construction of the wall began on Feb. 1. It is still a work in progress and so not all its features have been finally determined. Some Iraqi government officials say the controversial structure will consist of concrete barriers between 3 and 7 meters high. It will be 300 km long and surrounded by a 2-meter deep trench.
Control towers will be spaced along its length, and day and nigh-vision cameras and sensors installed in places where it is difficult to build the wall.
Other officials say the concrete barriers and trenches will only be placed at points vulnerable to terrorist infiltration, especially around the northern and western neighborhoods. They insist that surrounding woods and waters will be a natural part of the barrier, although there is no doubt in other quarters that this huge structure will ultimately swallow up several adjoining urban blocks.
The wall is ultimately destined to turn the entire Iraqi capital into a fortified Green Zone, the quarter of Baghdad which is currently the seat of government and foreign embassies.
How far this fortress will represent the entire Iraqi population is less obvious.
The Kurds were the first to see the writing on the wall.
The trenches the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) started digging in January – claimed as barriers for guarding its peshmerga from ISIS attack – were quickly perceived by Sunni and Shiite politicians as a step towards the autonomous republic’s separation and the partition of Iraq.
The Baghdad wall and the KRG trench may well serve as protective barriers against terrorists, but they are also shaping up as the infrastructure of the regionalism and secession which await post-ISIS Iraq. This tendency will also no doubt sweep up the Sunni-dominated Anbar and Salahuddin provinces.
Walls are becoming the dernier cri of global affairs.
Israel is continuing its national project for enclosing the country with security fences, and so is Saudi Arabia. Far from the Middle East, Donald Trump, the emerging Republican candidate in the race for the US presidency, reiterated after his third win in Nevada Wednesday, Feb. 24, his determination to build a wall on the Mexican frontier. That may be the only clue Trump has provided to his closed book on foreign policy.