Iraqi Prime Minister orders improved access to Green Zone for civilians

The Green Zone was carved out of central Baghdad by U.S.-led forces after the invasion of Baghdad in 2003.

Story highlights

  • Many Iraqis see the Green Zone as a virtual city within a city with privileged residents
  • The Iraqi Prime Minister didn't specify what the timetable is for opening up the zone

(CNN)Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered security forces to make Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, where the United States and several other Western embassies are situated, more accessible to civilians.

The announcement Friday comes amid a series of reforms proposed by al-Abadi's government, which is under pressure from protestors and religious leaders who are demanding measures to tackle corruption.
Al-Abadi also requested that officials open up streets in other parts of Iraq that have been closed off for security "by VIPs and influential parties." But he added the caveat that the moves should take into account measures needed to protect citizens and visitors to government offices from terrorist attacks.

    City within a city

    The Green Zone, an area carved out of central Baghdad by U.S.-led forces after their invasion of Iraq in 2003, is seen by many Iraqis as a virtual city within a city where privileged residents enjoy more security and better public services than elsewhere in Baghdad.
    Militants have fired mortars at the zone and attacked checkpoints around it, but those inside have been spared the worst of the frequent suicide bombings and other extremist violence that plague parts of Baghdad.
    As well as Western embassies, the district houses Iraqi government institutions and the residences of high-ranking officials and their families.
    Opening up the Green Zone, which is also known as the International Zone, could potentially shorten hours-long traffic jams, making it easier for residents of Baghdad to travel from one side of the congested capital to the other.
    It could also improve access to certain services that are only available inside the zone, such as applying for visas at foreign embassies and visiting Iraqi government buildings, including the parliament.

    No timetable

    Al-Abadi didn't provide a timetable for improving access to the protected district or specify what level of security would remain.
    His statement said he had given orders to Iraqi security forces "to carry out the necessary arrangements to open the Green Zone to citizens."
      Iraq formally took control of the zone from the U.S. military at the start of 2009.
      The U.S. Embassy has some defenses within the Green Zone, notably a high wall that stands a significant distance from the embassy buildings.