Many Iraqis Don't Like Baghdad Wall
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
And Mike, just how far along was this project?
MIKE SHUSTER: Steve, it's in the early stages. It's not very far. It's quite a large wall, enclosing a fairly large neighborhood. It's being built at nighttime by U.S. soldiers. And neighborhood residents noticed it in its early stages and began to protest quite quickly.
INSKEEP: And as best you can determine, the prime minister has said this wall should be stopped being built, but you're speaking of it in the past tense. Should we be speaking of this as a project that's dead or it might still have a future?
SHUSTER: It's actually not - it's not clear yet. The prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said last night that he wanted it to stop. That's not the same thing as an actual order to make it stop. Today the U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker, said he wasn't sure where this project was at the same time. He said of course we will respect the wishes of the Iraqi government, but also urged them to understand that it's designed to prevent what he called the awful wave of suicide bombings that have hit Baghdad in the last couple of weeks. So I think it's fairly clear the Americans would like to see it continue. There are some in the Iraqi government that would like to see it continue, and just what kind of action Prime Minister Maliki will take is not clear yet.
INSKEEP: Is this a purely American project?
SHUSTER: No, it's not. The Americans seem to have developed it in consultation with the Iraqis, probably some in the Iraqi military and high up in the Iraqi police.
INSKEEP: And what have Americans been saying now that they have heard the prime minister say he does not like this idea?
SHUSTER: Well, as I said, the U.S. ambassador gave his first press conference here. Ryan Crocker is new to Baghdad. He's just been here for a couple of months, and he was questioned repeatedly on this. And he did not back down. He acknowledged that there is a resistance to it, but he repeatedly today, in his press conference, made the argument that this is meant to stop the terrorism that has hit Baghdad, especially in the last couple of weeks, and that it's not meant to prevent Iraqis from living their lives.
INSKEEP: What does this neighborhood like and how do people in that neighborhood feel about the wall?
SHUSTER: But today there was a demonstration against the wall and mostly what you hear are people saying that they don't want to be caged in, they feel like they're being put in prison. They have made comparisons to the Berlin Wall, to the wall, the security barrier that the Israelis have built around the West Bank. Occasionally you'll hear someone say that if it's done right, people might feel safer in it. But overwhelmingly they're against it.
INSKEEP: Mike, thanks very much.
SHUSTER: You're welcome, Steve.
INSKEEP: We've been listening to NPR's Mike Shuster. He's in Baghdad.
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