News & Politics

Pentagon Backs Plan to Build "Zone of Influence" in Iraq

The Pentagon wants to Disney-fy the Green Zone and create a lasting cultural footprint in Baghdad.
The White House has repeatedly insisted that the United States has “no desire for permanent bases” in Iraq. Nevertheless, the Bush administration is seeking to leave its footprint on Iraq through other means. The AP reports that the Pentagon is backing a $5 billion dollar plan to “transform the U.S.-protected Green Zone” into a “centerpiece for Baghdad’s future,” resulting in “big paydays for early investors:“
For Washington, the driving motivation is to create a “zone of influence” around the new $700 million U.S. Embassy to serve as a kind of high-end buffer for the compound, whose total price tag will reach about $1 billion after all the workers and offices are relocated over the next year.
“When you have $1 billion hanging out there and 1,000 employees lying around, you kind of want to know who your neighbors are. You want to influence what happens in your neighborhood over time,” said Navy Capt. Thomas Karnowski, who led the team that created the development plan.
An incentive for the project, which would include hotels, resorts, and commercial development in the Green Zone, appears to be lining the pockets of investors and allies rather than re-building Iraq’s economy. In fact, Karnowski acknowledged that American officials would vet potential investors because of a “vested interest” — mirroring the cronyism of Saddam’s Hussein’s regime.
Some Iraqi leaders even have drawn parallels to the U.S.-backed development plan and what Saddam Hussein did in the area — known by its Iraqi name of Tashri during his regime. Hussein stocked the neighborhood with family and tribal allies, political loyalists and members of his elite Republican Guard. Karnowski called the accusation “partially true.”