Friday, April 20, 2007

Worked Great In Berlin: U.S. Erects Baghdad Wall to Keep Sects Apart


BAGHDAD, April 20 — American military commanders in Baghdad are trying a radical new strategy to quell the widening sectarian violence by building a 12-foot-high, three-mile-long wall separating a historic Sunni enclave from Shiite neighborhoods.

Soldiers in the Adhamiya district of northern Baghdad, a Sunni Arab stronghold, began construction of the wall last week and expect to finish it within a month. Iraqi Army soldiers would then control movement through a few checkpoints. The wall has already drawn intense criticism from residents of the neighborhood, who say that it will increase sectarian tensions and that it is part of a plan by the Shiite-led Iraqi government to box in the minority Sunnis.

A doctor in Adhamiya, Abu Hassan, said the wall would transform the residents into caged animals.

“It’s unbelievable that they treat us in such an inhumane manner,” he said in a telephone interview. “They’re trying to isolate us from other parts of Baghdad. The hatred will be much greater between the two sects.”

“The Native Americans were treated better than us,” he added.

The American military said in a written statement that “the wall is one of the centerpieces of a new strategy by coalition and Iraqi forces to break the cycle of sectarian violence.”

As soldiers pushed forward with the construction, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates insisted to the Iraqi government that it had to pass by late summer a series of measures long sought by the White House that were aimed at advancing reconciliation between the warring Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs.

Whether Parliament meets that benchmark could affect a decision that the Bush administration plans to make in late summer on extending the nearly 30,000 additional troops ordered to Iraq earlier this year, Mr. Gates said.

His words were the bluntest yet by an American official in tying the American military commitment here to the Iraqi political process. It reflected a growing frustration among Bush administration officials at Iraq’s failure to move on the political elements of the new strategy. President Bush’s new security plan here is aimed at buying time for the feuding Iraqi factions to come to political settlements that would, in theory, reduce the violence......

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