It appears that we've handed radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr another golden opportunity to portray himself as the defender of all Iraqis against the occupation of the hated infidels and Jews (as he refers to us) as this story explains:
BAGHDAD: Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr strongly condemned construction of a wall around a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad, calling for demonstrations against the plan as a sign of "the evil will" of American "occupiers."
In the statement, al-Sadr said the protests showed that Iraqis reject "the sectarian, racist and unjust wall that seeks to divide" Sunnis and Shiites. "This wall shows the evil will of the occupier and its sectarian and terrorist projects against our people," al-Sadr said in the statement. "We the people of Iraq will defend Azamiyah and other neighborhoods that you (Americans) want to segregate from us. We will stand hand in hand with you (Sunnis) to demonstrate and protect our holy land."
"I am confident that such honorable voices will bring down the wall," he said.
...and what does the "sovereign" leader of Iraq think about the wall?
"I oppose the building of the wall, and its construction will stop. There are other methods to protect neighbourhoods," al-Maliki told reporters in Egypt.
...and what does our new Ambassador to Iraq have to say about the Prime Minister's wishes:
"Obviously, we will respect the wishes of the government and the prime minister," Crocker said, although he did not say construction would halt.
Obviously (to any idiot who can't see), we will respect the wishes of the Prime Minister...except when we don't respect the wishes of the Prime Minister. A senior officer at the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior tried to clarify the situation:
"US troops allege that such walls will help protect civilians but we believe that they will just help fighters to know who to target and where. The construction [of walls] should stop and the Prime Minister's decision should be respected," said Lt. Col. Ala'a Hussein Obadi, senior officer at the Ministry of Interior. "There are many different ways to help improve security and we hope US troops understand the appeal [by al-Maliki]."
If nothing else, this whole issue has demonstrated clearly the "fiction" of Iraqi sovereignty which was hailed as a major "turning point" in the war when it ostensibly took place in mid-2004. If the Iraqis were truly sovereign they wouldn't have to "hope" that we understand their opposition to the Azamiyah Wall. They would just tell us that we have to stop.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. This wall has the potential of becoming a major political issue in Iraq, and a stark symbol of the occupation that opponents to our presence will continually rail against and use to mobilize their followers. How long will it be before we hear the cry: "Mr Bush--Tear Down This Wall!"
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