When I first read over the news about the occupying force in Iraq was constructing a wall between Sunni and Shiite Arab areas in Baghdad in hope to reduce violent contact between the two groups, I felt a hint of disapproval toward that plan, as much as I felt against the proposal to turn Iraq into a three-state federation. Yet, the continuing violence between the two groups does make a case for the erection of walls in the city. Existing walls have proven to reduce the number of attacks:
Although the strategy of using barriers to safeguard areas of Baghdad is not new, the Adhamiya plan to enclose the neighborhood entirely was promoted as an advanced security measure. About two years ago, the American military erected a wall along the section of the Amiriya neighborhood that borders the airport road. While hardly foolproof, it reduced the number of attacks on American convoys on the route. [Frustration Over Wall Unites Sunni and Shiite. NYT. April 24 2007]
The separation barriers roughly run along the periphery of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is another supporting case of how it could reduce attacks. Nevertheless, it divides community, cutting friends and relatives from each others. I am therefore am undecided on the issue of separation barriers in Iraq.
While undecided, I am happy to read that there are those from both Sunnis and the Shiites Arab communities that oppose the walls. It does show that both communities are willing to work together toward an end, regardless of creeds. Perhaps, there is hope for Iraq after all.
The ability of the Arab Iraqis to trust the Kurds might be another signal of hope:
Arabs see them as a neutral force, the Americans say.
“The reason why people are willing to trust the 1-3-4 is because they’re Kurdish,” said Capt. Benjamin Morales, 28, commander of Company B of the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, the partner unit of Captain Hamasala’s company. “They don’t care about Sunni or Shia.” [In Twist of History, Kurds Patrol Baghdad. NYT. April 24 2007]
Yet, I doubt if this is a clear cut sign that Sunni and Shiite Arabs in general could live together. I feel so because the opposition to the walls might be fueled by common dissatisfaction against a force rather than true respect:
The American involvement in the wall’s construction has united Iraqis of different sects. Sunni political parties, as well as some Shiite groups, strongly oppose the wall. Shiite groups fear that though Sunni Arab neighborhoods are the ones being cordoned off this week, next month it could be Shiite areas as well. [Frustration Over Wall Unites Sunni and Shiite. NYT. April 24 2007]
The uniting factor is more of ad hoc in nature, rather than permanent. It is ad hoc because it is superficial. I do not believe commonality based on hate would produce lasting alliance. Once that commonality is removed, what other intransient factor would peacefully hold the communities together?