• Party’s Over in the Green Zone

    December 6, 2011

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq, Other Ideas

    Back in what we’ll probably soon call the good old days in the Green Zone, the place was a party pit.

    Staff at the World’s Largest Embassy (c) could borrow a motor pool vehicle and cruise the Green Zone (the Embassy wants to push the meme that the place is now called the International Zone but everyone other than Embassy PR drones including the Iraqis still calls it the Green Zone), snapping tourist pics (like me, above left) in front of ex-Saddam architecture. At night, staff could summon up a motor pool shuttle bus to retrieve them from parties held all over the damn place– something sedate and mature at a Scandinavian embassy, or a full-blown orgy at one of the security contractors’ compounds. Take your pick, or hey, try both in one night!

    Well Sven and Svenettes, the party is over. As “security” returns to Iraqi control and the last remnants of the US Army retreat from Bull Run, the Green Zone is no longer such a happy place. Mirroring internal guidance and formalizing weeks’ worth of rumors, the World’s Largest Embassy (c) issued a fatwa to everyone in the Green Zone:

    Due to severe threats of kidnapping operations and terrorist attacks throughout Iraq, including the International Zone (IZ), the U.S. Embassy has greatly enhanced the security posture for U.S. Government employees. This enhanced security posture includes severely restricted movement within the IZ. The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens in all areas of Iraq, including the IZ, maintain a heightened sense of security awareness and take appropriate measures to enhance personal and operational security at this time. U.S. citizens are advised to keep a low profile; vary days, times, and routes of travel; and exercise caution while driving and entering or exiting vehicles.

    While I don’t know the specifics behind that announcement, the usual play inside any Embassy is a) A threat is identified; b) The Political or Economic section wants to downplay it to keep good relations with the host government; c) The Consular section frets that Americans need to be warned; d) Much dithering is snapped when the security office announces the threat already circulating informally inside the Embassy community in an internal memo which e) Triggers the “no double standard rule” and forces/allows the Consular section to go public. It is not a process that takes place casually, so probably bad stuff is a’ brewin’ in the old Green Zone for it to get to this point.

    The New York Times noticed too:

    The embassy in Baghdad regularly warns American travelers and citizens of kidnapping threats, and the risk of terrorist attacks on trade fairs or at public demonstrations, a constant shadow over life in a place where about 200 Iraqi civilians are killed every month.

    But the announcement of tightened security measures is more unusual, coming less than a week after a suicide bomber managed to bring explosives into the International Zone and set off a bomb just outside the gates of Parliament. Iraqi officials called the blast a botched assassination attempt against either the speaker of Parliament or Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

    And indeed so have the bad guys. In a piece cheerfully entitled “Sunnis and Shiites Head Toward a Showdown in Iraq,” one writer notes:

    All these Americans will be in the line of fire once the troops withdraw. Last month the fiery cleric Moqtada al-Sadr issued a blunt statement about American staff working at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad after the Dec. 31 deadline. “All of them are occupiers, and it is a must to fight them after the deadline,” Sadr wrote. That is no idle threat, given the Mahdi Army’s bloody history of attacks against the U.S. military.

    FYI: You can peer into the Green Zone from space via Google Maps. Note that per the State Department’s request, for security reasons Google has agreed not to update its satellite view to show the actual completed World’s Largest Embassy (c).

    Happy Holidays to everyone in Baghdad!

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