The Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has ordered a halt to the building of a security barrier around the Baghdad neighborhood of Adhamiya. There are obvious political implications to building such a barrier in the Arab world. "I've ordered it to stop and to find other means of protection for the neighborhoods," al-Maliki said, after stating the barrier served to remind the Iraqi people of "other walls that we reject," a direct reference to the Israeli fence separating it from Gaza and the West Bank.
But, as Omar Fadhil notes, "Work to construct similar walls started weeks ago in the Amiriya and Ghazaliyah districts. The 'news' went utterly unnoticed then." Mr. Fadhil notes the barrier has had some effect in Amiriya and Ghazaliyah, and postulates insurgents stirred up the local protests to halt the building of the wall.
The barrier is designed to limit the flow of traffic into and outside the city. The U.S. and Iraqi military wants to monitor the movement of insurgents from the neighborhood while restricting the movement of death squads into the neighborhood. There are some questions as to whether construction will actually stop. An Iraqi military spokesman said construction will continue, while U.S. spokesmen said the "gated communities" plan is now under review.
The security barrier is a crucial component of the Baghdad security plan, and its elimination would create difficult political and security problems for General David Petraeus and Multinational Forces Iraq. The elimination of the wall would force additional troops to provide for security, and troops are at a premium. And the change serves as a direct political threat to General Petraeus' authority to ensure the Baghdad Security Plan is properly executed.
In Iraq's Anbar province, the Anbar Salvation Council continues to gain steam in its fight against al Qaeda. Seven new tribes have just joined the Anbar Salvation Council's political movement, the Anbar Awakening. Last week, the Anbar Salvation Council announced it was forming the Iraq Awakening, a national political party which would "oppose insurgents such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and reengage with Iraq's political process." The Iraq Awakening is scheduled to meet in May, and will be the first Sunni political party to openly oppose al Qaeda in Iraq.
Iraqi and Coalition forces continue to maintain pressure on al Qaeda's network nationwide. Yesterday, Coalition forces netted 19 al Qaeda facilitators and foot soldiers during raids in Karma, Taji and Anbar. Today, 10 al Qaeda were captured in raids in Fallujah and Baghdad.
Inside Baghdad, the Iranian embassy was attacked for the second day in a row. Yesterday, Ansar Al Sunnah, an Islamist terrorist group allied with al Qaeda, claimed credit for a bombing near the embassy, which killed one and wounded six. Today, four Iraqis were wounded when two bombs were detonated in a parking lot outside the embassy.
Al Qaeda in Iraq conducted two successful major operations in the city of Baqubah in the restive province of Diyala. Nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 20 wounded (15 later returned to duty) after a suicide bomber struck a forward operating base in the city. As this occurred, insurgents, disguised as Iraqi Policemen, attacked a group of civilians in Baqubah. Eight were killed and 20 wounded in the attack. Al Qaeda is working to destroy local support for the police and military forces while directly striking U.S. forces in order to destroy political support here in the United States.
Diyala continues to be a focus of al Qaeda operations. Tribal leaders and residents of Diyala are beginning to work with Iraqi and Coalition forces operating in the region. Yesterday, a suicide attack on Diyala's provincial council headquarters killed six police and wounded 13. An American military intelligence official informs us al Qaeda in Iraq has initiated a terror campaign against civilians and tribal leaders that equals the scale of the atrocities committed by Zarqawi in Fallujah.