Iraqis are indignant about the wall being built around Baghdad's Adhamiya area, site of the Sunni insurgency. But the US is right to proceed; it will save Sunni and Shia livesby Nibras Kazimi / June 30, 2007 / Leave a comment
A wall grows in Baghdad
The demonstration by supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr against the “Adhamiya wall”—the security cordon being built around a Sunni neighbourhood of Baghdad—was not as odd as it looked. Those killing the Sunnis of Adhamiya are almost certainly Sadrist death squads; no wonder they don’t like the wall.
The idea of building a concrete barrier to rein in Sunni terrorists and to keep out Shia death squads was, well, my own. I first suggested it on my blog Talisman Gate last December, when the Iraq Study Group was considering a new strategy for securing Baghdad. The inspiration came from the Israeli “fence”—tragic and effective in equal measure—that encloses Arab pockets in the West Bank.
Indignation was quick in Baghdad among both Shias and Sunnis, who still hold on to the fantasy that there is no need for sectarian barriers and who blame their constant killing of each other on the Americans. The uproar was fanned by Arab satellite channels, which spun the wall as an anti-Sunni measure. Iraq’s Shia prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was eventually compelled to demand the cessation of building—an order ignored by the American and Iraqi generals who oversee construction.
Lost in the hullabaloo is the fact that the wall will save Sunni lives as well as Shia. As well as helping to contain by far the most vicious exporters of Sunni violence in Baghdad, the wall creates a safe haven for a defeated minority whose insurrection, having peaked at least six months ago, is now beginning to blow up, often literally, in its face.
Adhamiya is as Sunni a place as you can find. It was initially a settlement around the shrine of a much-revered 8th-century Sunni jurist, Abu Hanifa, whose rite is followed by the vast majority of Baghdad’s Sunnis, as well as by the Ottoman sultans in their day. The settlement began to the north of old Baghdad, and was soon joined across the Tigris river by another shrine town, the Shia enclave of Kadhimiya.
Adhamiya is where Saddam Hussein last dared appear in public, just as US forces were entering Baghdad in April 2003. It was in Adhamiya that the Sunni insurgency first stirred in the capital, five months after the war. When the Sunnis started focusing most of their efforts on trying to provoke civil war with the Shias, hoping they could use the ensuing chaos and America’s…