The concrete blast walls that for years defined Baghdad's landscape and softened the almost daily thud of indiscriminate suicide bombings are to be torn down, Iraqi military sources confirmed today.
Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, the spokesman for the city's operations command centre, announced that every single one of the symbolically charged shock-absorbers will be dismantled within 40 days - restoring the character of the historic capital but also leaving it open to attack.
While his words stirred up anxiety among Baghdadis, supporters of the plan say it is a necessary first step towards normalcy in a city that since 2003 has been paralysed by an unrelenting wave of terrorism.
When sectarian suicide bombings reached their peak in 2005-06, the occupying US forces erected blast walls across the breadth of the city.
A series of bloody attacks on hotels, military barracks and police stations forced the coalition to roll out the bleak emblems of life in a warzone. Four metres high and weighing a tonne each, the slabs made neighbourhoods safer but also masked the character of Baghdad's streets.
In subsequent years, though, falling insurgent activity has allowed coalition forces to begin withdrawing from major cities. And according to the newly-empowered national government, the walls can go with them.
"It has been decided ... to lift all the concrete walls from the main and side streets of all Baghdad neighbourhoods ... and reopen them within 40 days," the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a decree.
His announcement, often hinted at before but never with an accompanying deadline, was reiterated by senior sources in the army. ''No exception will be made any place in Baghdad,'' Major General al-Moussawi confirmed.
The response among ordinary Iraqis has been a predictable mix of elation and anxiety. One taxi driver told the BBC that he welcomed the move as it would reduce traffic jams, but other Baghdadis voiced reservations.
"We need to keep roads as they are until the security forces are really capable of taking control," one warned. "I think the time has not come yet."
Last month's historic withdrawal of American troops from the capital prompted a dramatic upsurge in terror attacks. On Friday alone, 29 people were killed in a series of synchronised bombings targeting Shia mosques.
But the brutality and frequency of these attacks is something Iraqis have long been accustomed to. While few are naive enough to think that demolishing the walls will go unnoticed by Al Qaeda, many cling to the hope that opening up their communities may revitalise life in Baghdad.
It is not just hotels, embassies and army barracks that hide behind the walls. Nor are their shadows limited to motorways and banks.
The depressing reality is that whole neighbourhoods in all corners of the capital have gradually been sectioned off. The ubiquity of the blast walls has all but enshrined segregation in the city – forcing Baghdadis to accept the inevitability of religious, class-based and ethnic strife.
Tearing down the walls will undoubtedly cost lives in the short-term. It will open up opportunities for Al Qaeda to exploit the vulnerabilities of democratic, liberal ideals – just as it did in London, New York and Madrid.
But once the dust clouds have subsided, the next generation of Baghdadis will grow up with a new perspective of their city. An expansive viewpoint – enlightening far beyond mere line of sight – which was for decades denied to subjects of Saddam Hussein and the coalition.
The dismantling of the walls will allow Baghdad to take a tentative first step towards post-war life. Its success may depend on the ability of Iraq's disparate communities to overcome the lure of an unarmoured foe.