I blogged on Friday that the U.S. military was beginning construction of a 3-mile long wall to separate the Sunni neighborhood Azamiyah from the Shiite neighborhoods that border it. The story gained traction over the weekend (the New York Times and McClatchy, among others, covered it). A protest scheduled for today also turned up the heat, and Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki put his foot down.
Al-Maliki is touring Sunni countries in hopes of shoring up some regional support for his ailing Shiite government, and, in a joint press conference with the secretary-general of the Arab League, said authoritatively, “I oppose the building of the wall and its construction will stop.” American military officials wouldn’t confirm that construction would stop, TIME reports, “saying only that all security measures were constantly under discussion.” However, the U.S. military did cede to the PM’s wishes in October, when al-Maliki—sensibly—objected that barricading off Muqtada al-Sadr’s stronghold, Sadr City, would be a recipe for disaster. Al-Maliki’s suggestion this time also seems like a winner, since both Shiites and Sunnis oppose construction of the wall.
The Prime Minister, loyal to his American king makers, showed great restraint in alluding only vaguely to the obviously catastrophic history such barriers have had.