Baghdad Green Zone, Iraq, Baghdad

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Baghdad’s Green Zone has been a barometer for tension and conflict in Iraq for nearly two decades. The 4-square mile (10-square kilometer) heavily guarded strip on the banks of the Tigris River was known as “Little America” following the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. It then became a hated symbol of the country’s inequality, fueling the perception among Iraqis that their government is out of touch. The sealed-off area, with its palm trees and monuments, is home to the gigantic U.S. Embassy in Iraq, one of the largest diplomatic missions in the world. It has also been home to successive Iraqi governments and is off limits to most Iraqis. Various attempts and promises by the Iraqi government to open the area to traffic over the past years have failed to materialize, because of persistent security concerns. Here’s a look at the Green Zone, past and present: BEFORE THE INVASION Although not visible, security was always tight around the area, as Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace complex was located inside. So were the homes of some of Iraq’s top government officials. The road leading to the presidential palace had been closed for decades before the war. The zone is also home to important Baghdad landmarks including the “Victory Arch” — a 40-meter (131-feet) tall arch of two swords held by bronze casts of Saddam’s hands to commemorate the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. The area is also home to the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, Baghdad’s famous clock tower and the…

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