There has been recent talk by U.S. officials regarding the expectation for President Bush to ask Congress for close to $1 billion to build a permanent U.S. embassy in Iraq. At this unstable point in Iraq’s government and economy, however, this is not the time to build the largest and most expensive U.S. embassy in the world.
The embassy would include enough space for 1,000 Americans and 700 Iraqi employees. Those U.S. employees would come from dozens of federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the CIA, and the Department of Commerce. Currently, there are no complete plans on whether the compound would include housing for these employees or not, especially those from the United States.
In comparison with other large embassies around the world, the U.S. embassy in Moscow, currently the largest embassy, has 350 U.S. employees, close to one-third the estimated number the Iraq embassy would employ. In these troubled times in Iraq, where there are daily bombings and a significant enough percentage of the Iraqi population that wants the United States out of Iraq, it does not seem practical to send close to 1,000 highly-trained American employees to work in such a confined, dangerous area.
Another point to consider is that the new embassy would be located geographically in the middle of an ongoing U.S. operation in Iraq. What kind of message does this send to the Iraqi people? Since the new government officials elected in Iraq are temporary until the end of the year, why would the United States build this extravagant embassy before the Iraqi government is complete and fully functional? This seems to be sending the wrong message, as though the United States is still truly in power in the country.
Though there definitely is a need for the United States to have an embassy in Iraq, just as we have in most every allied nation in the world, for such a geographically small nation there is no need to build such a large embassy. It is understandable that Russia has the largest embassy in the world since the country is so geographically large, occupying about 17 million square kilometers, nearly four times the size of the European Union, and with a population of close to 146 million people. Iraq, on the other hand, has a population of about 26 million and is comparable to California in its geographic size, covering only 437,370 square kilometers.
Though the need for an embassy in Iraq is more about keeping stability in the nation and less about whether the embassy is too large compared to the country’s own proportions, the bottom line is that there needs to be a waiting period before the United States takes such a bold political step.
Many coalition members are beginning to pull their troops out of Iraq. Therefore, if these countries no longer want to stick around to try to continually keep the peace in a country that has been fighting for close to two years, how will the U.S. government go about recruiting for the approximately 1,000 U.S. jobs and 700 jobs for Iraqi citizens it would call for? On the up side, it would create more U.S. jobs, but why put 1,000 Americans’ safety on the line just to create new jobs?
Nearly 1,500 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq in the past two years of fighting and that has not made the U.S. government wake up and leave to avoid future American fatalities.
Likewise, maybe by building this new embassy the government thinks, “Well, it’s only 1,000 more lives at stake.”