Green Zone (Baghdad)

Overview

The International Zone (formerly known as the Green Zone) is the heavily guarded diplomatic/government area of closed-off streets in central Baghdad where US occupation authorities live and work. The Green Zone in the central city includes the main palaces of former President Saddam Hussein. The area houses the civilian ruling authority run by the Americans and British and the offices of major US consulting companies.

The precise boundries of the "Green Zone" are difficult to determine, and indeed may change with time. The core of the Green Zone appears to be Hussein's former presidential complex.

The International Zone is commonly referred to as the "Ultimate Gated Community" due to the numerous armed checkpoints, coils of razor wire, chain link fences, and the fact it is surrounded by "T-Walls" (reinforced and blast-proof concrete slabs).

Part of the International Zone is said to have been "Uday's Playground" comprised of the Presidential Palace (now the U.S. Embassy Annex); numerous villas for Saddam's family, friends and former Baath party loyalists; an underground bunker (Believers Palace); the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Military History Museum; the new Baath party headquarters (unfinished); the Al-Rasheed Hotel; the Convention Center; and a large park including the much photographed crossed sabers and parade route. The International Zone was also home to Saddam's man-eating lions, which have since been moved to the Iraqi National Zoo.

Due to the numerous Iraqi Interim Government entities occupying space within the Zone, traffic and population has increased. There is now a taxi service supported by the Iraqis working within the International Zone. Also, several independent local shops, including an Iraqi flea market provide an array of international and local Iraqi goods.

Contrary to popular belief, the International Zone is lush and tropical with very little humidity. The area is garnished with world-class date producing palms, various fruit and other exotic trees.

The 14th of July Bridge reopened for the first time since the fall of Saddam's regime after a ribbon-cutting ceremony held 25 October 2003. The 14th of July Bridge serves as a major transportation artery which allows access to the northwestern part of Baghdad. Curiously, nobody thought of changing its name, which celebrates the inception of Baathist rule. Baghdad 's first suspension bridge links the Karkh and Karadah districts on the north and south side of Baghdad. It was damaged during the first Gulf War, but was never repaired by the former regime. Realizing it was unsafe for use, Coalition forces closed the bridge when they entered Baghdad in April 2003. The newly repaired bridge will alleviate traffic build-up and allow drivers a direct route across the Tigris River. When the bridge was closed, people had to spend an extra twenty minutes to drive around the river. A bomb attack in central Baghdad on 13 November 2003 prompted the coalition to close the Bridge. The 14th of July Street (Arbataash Tamuz Street) which runs over the 14th of July Bridge (Arbataash Tamuz Bridge) runs between the Presidential Palace and the New Presidential Palace, both of which are in use by the Coalition Provisional Authority. Closing the Bridge would seal a potential point of access into the heart of the Green Zone.

The Green Zone -- also called "The Bubble" - is the hub of the vision for the New Iraq. It is almost self-sufficient, and staff working there can be treated in the compound's hospital or run safely in its grounds. When they leave, it is by armored car with an armed military escort.

The Convention Center is where the United States has set up headquarters, and is also home to the coalition press office. The state-of-the-art hall is in the same Green Zone as the Republican Palace. Once used by the fallen regime for conferences, it is home to a highly visible collection of troops, some of whom live in an office that has been converted to barracks.

The Iraqi Governing Council is headquartered in the handsome marble building that once was the Military Industry Ministry run by Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel. The new Iraqi Ministry of Justice has decided to use the Adnan Buildingg, which is within the Green Zone, instead of the Clock Tower Building, for the Central Criminal Court and the Supreme Court.

The Green Zone is defended with coils of razor wire, chain-link fences, earthen berms and armed checkpoints. The area is defended by M1 Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and HUMVEEs with .50 caliber machine guns on top. The Green Zone appears under siege, with barriers, high concrete walls and checkpoints. US officials are rarely visible outside it, and rules for British personnel bar them from leaving it unless accompanied by four bodyguards and an armored vehicle.

Iraqis and foreign diplomats have been critical of occupation officials, who they say are isolated within the Green Zone and un-informed about life elsewhere in Baghdad, an area that official US security jargon calls "the Red Zone." Being in the Green Zone in Baghdad provides a limited possibility to meet regular Iraqi people. Americans are walling themselves in, mentally and emotionally, as well as physically.

In an analysis on 01 September 2003 ["After Najaf: The Emerging Patterns of Combat in the Iraq War"] Anthony H. Cordesman stated that "a critical mistake [was] made by ORHA and carried on by the CPA by creating US security zones around US headquarters in central Baghdad. This has created a no go zone for Iraqis and has allowed the attackers to push the US into a fortress that tends to separate U.S. personnel from the Iraqis. This follows a broader pattern where terrorist know that attacks tend to push the US into locating in "force protection" enclaves and cut Americans off from the local population."

By late 2003 much of the huge US military presence in Baghdad was out of sight at the airport and in other encampments.

In September 2003 US officials said they planned to reopen parts of the Green Zone to civilian traffic in October 2003 to reduce the zone's disruption to Baghdad's traffic. But this step would make security even more difficult for top US officials here.

On 27 September 2003 guerrillas struck at the heart of the US occupation, firing three rockets or grenades at a Baghdad hotel filled with American soldiers and civilians. Only one actually hit the hotel and did minimal damage and no one was hurt. The attack on the al-Rashid Hotel, home to US military officers and civilian occupation officials came at about 6:30 AM. The 200-foot-tall hotel stands hundreds of yards from the high, earth-filled barriers ringing that section of the zone. The green zone is still the safest area in Baghdad, and until this incident there had no shooting incidents or attacks on any personnel in this area.

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