Iraqi Green Zone: ‘State within a state where fat cats enjoy Saddam Hussein’s palaces’

U.S. soldiers wait before going out on a mission, under the "Crossed-Sabers"-- a towering 160-tonne, bronze monument of two crossed swords held in Saddam's hands, at the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad. © Erik de Castro
Opening the Green Zone in Baghdad to the public is a political gamble as Iraq faces daily terror threats from Islamic State, Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the Al-Quds website, told RT. The move comes as massive anti-corruption protests are sweeping the country.

Plans to open public access to Baghdad’s Green Zone were announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Friday. The move is being questioned on security grounds, with the heavily-fortified area in the center of the capital hosting the Iraqi government offices and embassies of the US and other Western states.

RT: The PM says his plan is aimed at fighting corruption at security checkpoints. Why doesn't he seem worried about the security threats which will be unleashed?

Abdel Bari Atwan: It’s surprising. We know Iraq isn’t as safe as it used to be. We know that there are a lot of threats, especially from Islamic State [formerly ISIS/ISIL], who are bombing here and bombing there. Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi prime minister - he decided to take this gamble. I believe he would like to please the protesters in the streets. Now, thousands of Iraqis are demonstrating against corruption; against, actually, mismanagement, squandering by the government… He actually would like to put an end to the Green Zone, which is really hated by most of the Iraqis; it is considered, you know, a state within a state where fat cats are living, enjoying the palaces of Saddam Hussein.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

RT:There are also allegations circulating that bribes are being taken at the Green Zone checkpoints and other violations…

ABA: I believe so, because the problem is that checkpoints and heavy security measures are causing a lot of trouble for the neighborhoods there. So, people are really frustrated. It seems he’s trying to absorb some of the grievances of the people around this area and also in Iraq, in particular. But I believe the security - tight procedures - will continue there. I believe people would be scrutinized and will be searched. And I wouldn’t be surprised again if this kind of resolution would be reversed in the coming few weeks, maybe few months. We’re just waiting for one attack from Islamic State or another terrorist organization and the whole thing would go back again as it used to be. So, it’s a gamble. I don’t know whether it would work. I believe the whole of Iraq now is facing a lot of problems. And Mr al-Abadi, he’s trying actually to please the people, who are demonstrating against this government and the corruption by the thousands.

RT:Iraqi security forces haven't been able to stop terrorists from bombing Baghdad. Is the government likely to ask for more foreign help if something happens in the Green Zone?

ABA: Yes, definitely. We know that. The American embassy, the other Western embassies, the major ministries – all of them are inside this Green Zone. The problem is that if an attack by Islamic State or another terrorist organization is going to take place, in this case, I believe the whole confidence in the government will collapse completely. The whole confidence in al-Abadi, which is very shaky now, will collapse. So, I don’t know what he’s doing, but I believe yes… there are about 5,000 so-called American military experts in Iraq.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this number could be doubled under the pretext of, you know, preparing security for the Green Zone and other parts of Baghdad, which actually is threatened by the forces of Islamic State, which is about 60 kilometers away from the capital itself.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.