|Iraqi Army 155mm howitzers move under the Victory Arch as they take part in a parade to mark the Iraqi Army's 91st anniversary in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone Jan. 6, 2012.|
Security sources have disclosed that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who had been staying in the Green Zone in one of the largest of deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s palaces in central Baghdad, has moved to a modern fortified villa within the Green Zone. This area contains a number of Iraqi ministries and the US and British Embassies.
The sources told Azzaman that the secure villa has a secret underground shelter fortified against armed attacks. The sources added that the presidential palace, which was restored last year, is being used as a reception house for Maliki. The sources said that a foreign company, with the help of local contractors, built the villa where Maliki now lives, but refused to identify the company’s nationality.
Contractors said that the Iraqi government has, for unknown reasons, canceled or postponed contracts to build palaces for senior government officials with similar security features to Maliki’s villa.
The security sources told Azzaman that the new villa and the former presidential palaces have had their gardens rehabilitated by peasant farmers employed by means of security decrees issued by the Interior Ministry and the Islamic Dawa Party, which is headed by Maliki. The sources added that the farmers mostly hail from Maliki’s hometown. The sources pointed out that the gardens have swimming pools, palm trees and exotic plants. They stressed that the Green Zone, which is about 10 square kilometers, has never had any security breaches since it is well protected by thousands of troops with armored vehicles. The sources added that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani uses two former presidential palaces in the Green Zone. He uses the first as a residence for him and his family, and the second as a guest house.
The sources revealed that the al-Jadriya area, where the presidential palace is located, is under the protection of specially trained Kurdish security forces from Erbil and Sulaimaniya.
Iraqis in general are not allowed to enter the Green Zone, while guests enter through private gates after getting official approval. All guests are thoroughly searched and photographed.
The sources pointed out that many of Saddam’s palaces are neglected and in need of restoration. Regarding how services are provided to the Green Zone, the sources told Azzaman that food, drinks and other daily services arrive to the US and British Embassies from Kuwait by truck and are sometimes transported by helicopter for security reasons.
The US Embassy is supplied by tanker trucks carrying fuel for its large electricity generators. Those tankers come from Germany, are loaded with fuel in Turkey and enter Iraq without paying customs duties. When US troops were in Iraq, they needed 4,500 tanker trucks per day to fuel their tanks and for other military uses.
Regarding how senior officials, ministers and members of parliament (MPs) living in the Green Zone get food and drink services, sources told Azzaman that food and drinks are brought in by various means. One way is to grant security licenses to contractors in charge of importing food from abroad or locally. The food is brought in to the Green Zone by private refrigerated trucks, which are thoroughly searched before being transported to grocery stores within the zone that carry high-end products not available in the local market. The sources pointed out that bread is supplied by bakeries in Baghdad, to very high specifications.
The other way food is brought in is a number of officials, MPs and ministers send their security escorts to buy their needed goods from the Baghdad market by means of older cars that do not attract attention, for security reasons.
In response to a question by Azzaman about schools for children in the Green Zone, the sources said the area is almost devoid of children because the officials send their children to study in Erbil, Amman, Beirut or other Arab cities.
The sources pointed out that Green Zone residents are treated at the Ibn Sina hospital or by specialized clinics set up inside the zone that employ skilled doctors and surgeons. The sources said judges, advisers and general directors also reside in the Green Zone.
The "Green Zone" is the common name for the international neighborhood in Baghdad. It was created by the forces that invaded Iraq in 2003 and is one of the most heavily guarded military sites in Iraq. It contains the headquarters of the Iraqi government and army, the US Embassy and foreign organizations.
The term “Green Zone” was first used by the interim Iraqi government. Its old name was Karada Mariam and its official name according maps is al-Tashri neighborhood. It used to be a residential area for members of the Iraqi government and several ministries, and contained a number of palaces for former president Saddam Hussein and his sons. The largest palaces in the Green Zone are the presidential palace and the Palace of Peace. US forces took control of the Green Zone in April 2003 after a tough battle.