- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Iraqi officials on Tuesday announced that the fortress-like Green Zone sector in the nation’s capital, where the main U.S. military and diplomatic missions are headquartered, will now be open to the public for the first time.

Ensconced in miles of blast-proof concrete barriers and military checkpoints, the Green Zone came to symbolize the enduring American military presence since the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003, and later during the U.S.-led coalition campaign against the Islamic State.

The Green Zone’s four-square-mile campus in the heart of Baghdad, which also houses Iraqi Parliament and several other key military and civilian ministries, will be open “twenty-four hours a day without any exceptions or conditions,” Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Jassim Yahya Abd Ali told the Associated Press.

Nicknamed “Little America,” the Green Zone had been off-limits to Iraqi citizens, except for a handful of people cleared by U.S. and Iraqi officials to conduct business inside the sector’s fortifications. The opening of the sector came on the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the official end of Ramadan.

In 2016, hundreds of Iraqi protesters, followers of populist Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, breached the Green Zone’s barricades and briefly took over the Iraqi parliamentary chambers before retreating peacefully from the area.

The U.S. embassy inside the Green Zone was the target of a May 19 rocket attack. Weeks later, the Defense Department confirmed, for the first time, that U.S. intelligence had evidence that Iranian leaders were connected to the strike.

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