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US Baghdad Embassy Compound (BEC)

In 2004 the US resumed diplomatic relations with the Iraqi Interim Government and established a new Embassy in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. The inauguration of the $700 million embassy compound in the heart of the Green Zone came in January 2009. The new complex had been under construction since mid-2005 with a target completion date of June 2007. It has its own water wells, electricity plant, wastewater-treatment facility, and so on, so as to allow 100 percent independence from city utilities. The embassy "as built" was substantially different from the initial plan, with a far less park like and far more industrial appearance. The precise bounds of the Eastern edge of the compound are not evident in imagery, but the pair of helipads conveniently located for a quick get-away are in evidence [not part of the original plan].

This Embassy is the largest embassy in the world. By 2014 the embassy had a population of around 5,000 people. At one point the State Department had close to 20,000 personnel on its payroll in Iraq [most not at the embassy]. In 2012 the US embassy in Baghdad supported approximately 16,000 employees around the country, 2,000 of those diplomats and the rest contractors. In March 2013 State had 10,500 personnel on the ground in Iraq, at which time State announced that they would cut the BEC head count to 5,500, of which over 4000 would be contractors, cooks and Other Government Agency.

The 104-acre Baghdad Embassy Compound (BEC) is bigger than the Vatican and about the size of 80 football fields. The compound is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York, and two-thirds the size of the National Mall in Washington. It was to include 21 buildings, a commissary, cinema, retail and shopping areas, restaurants, schools, a fire station, power and water treatment plants, as well as telecommunications and wastewater treatment facilities.

The embassy and Consulate General Basrah occupied more than 100 acres each, while the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center site totalled 350 acres. A typical new embassy compound sits on approximately 10 acres.

America's largest existing embassy, covering 10 acres and consisting of five buildings, was in Beijing. Other accounts state that the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan was the largest Embassy in the world [as of 2013] with a combined staff of 3,000 US local and Third Country employees representing 19 US government agencies. In the early 1990s, the US Embassy in Moscow was the largest US Embassy in the world. In 1999, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Mr. Jeffrey Davidow, said of the US embassy in Mexico City: " I tell everybody it's the world largest Embassy, I'm not really sure that's true but it sounds good."

In 2007, Jane C. Loeffler, author of The Architecture of Diplomacy: Building America's Embassies, called the new embassy "a massive, fortified compound" that "stands out like the crusader castles that once dotted the landscape of the Middle East." For her, "Its size and scope bring into question whether it is even correct to call this facility an 'embassy'." After running through the stats, Loeffler said:

"Traditionally, at least, embassies were designed to further interaction with the community in which they were built. Diplomats visited the offices of local government officials, shopped at local businesses, took their suits to the neighborhood dry cleaner, socialized with community leaders, and mixed with the general public. Diplomacy is not the sort of work that can be done by remote control. It takes direct contact to build goodwill for the United States and promote democratic values. Otherwise, there would be no reason for the United States to maintain its 250-plus diplomatic posts around the world. The embassy in Baghdad, however, appears to represent a sea change in U.S. diplomacy. Although U.S. diplomats will technically be "in Iraq," they may as well be in Washington."

“The presence of a massive U.S. embassy — by far the largest in the world — co-located in the Green Zone with the Iraqi government is seen by Iraqis as an indication of who actually exercises power in their country,” according to the International Crisis Group, a European-based research group.

Embassy Baghdad’s Political Section aims to advance U.S. goals with respect to Iraq’s internal political situation and its political relations with other countries, through its work with Iraqi central and local government officials, NGOs, local organizations, and the diplomatic community in Iraq. The section is responsible for keeping the Ambassador and leadership in Washington informed about the wide range of Iraqi political issues, including domestic politics, internal boundaries, external relations, human rights and religious freedom, and women’s issues.

The Consular Section is located on the Embassy compound on Al Kindi Street within the International zone. It is composed of two units: American Citizen Services and Visas. American citizens can apply for U.S. passports, document U.S. citizen children born abroad, have documents, request help in an emergency, and more. Visas allow foreigners to travel to and apply for admission to the United States for temporary visits or permanent residence.

The Embassy's Economic Section is responsible for monitoring and managing the full range of economic relations between the U.S. and Iraq. The section works with the Iraqi government on bilateral and international economic policy issues, reports on developments in the Iraqi economy and trade and investment policies, promotes the adoption of economic policies favorable to free trade and open markets, and provides advocacy on behalf of Iraqi businesses in Iraq.

The Regional Security Office (RSO) provides comprehensive security and law enforcement support to the Embassy in Baghdad, the Consulate General in Erbil and the Consulate General in Basrah. The office staff includes; Special Agents of the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service, a Marine Security Guard Detachment, a local guard force and other security support personnel. The Regional Security Office Baghdad is managed by the Senior Regional Security Officer/ Special Agent-in-Charge who has oversight of all Diplomatic Security personal in Iraq.

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Page last modified: 17-06-2014 14:35:52 ZULU