Welcome to the new US embassy in Iraq
Source ::: The Times baghdad • Baghdad is a city of ruins — of burnt-out homes, of shops wrecked by suicide bombs, of the crumbling shells of Saddam-era palaces and ministries destroyed by smart bombs in the US invasion of 2003. There is one notable exception. It is probably the only big new building project in the capital in the past four years. It is the new US Embassy on the west bank of the Tigris which the contractors will transfer to the US government officially today. A towering wall renders the huge new embassy almost invisible from ground level. For security reasons the State Department has refused all requests for media tours — promising instead to release pictures of the interior at some later date. The only way to view it is from the roof of the Babylon hotel, across the river. What you can see through the haze of heat and pollution is a complex of two dozen smart new dun and grey blocks set in 104 acres of grounds ringed by that impregnable wall. It is a fortress within the fortress that is the green zone. It is designed to repel any physical attack and. when it opens for business in a few weeks, it will be protected by a detachment of Marines with their own barracks. It is not, however, invulnerable to criticism. This is the largest US Embassy built — roughly the size of Vatican City — and at $600m the most expensive. At a time when millions of Baghdadis outside the green zone receive only a couple of hours of water and electricity daily, Iraqis observe that this project has been completed on time, on budget, and is entirely self-sufficient with its own fresh water supply, electricity plant, sewage treatment facility, maintenance shops and warehouses. “People are very angry,” said one young Iraqi. “It’s for the Americans, not for the Iraqis.” There are two office blocks that will house 1,000 staff, six apartment blocks containing 619 one-bedroom units, spacious residences for the Ambassador and his deputy, a school, shopping centre and food court; a swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts; a gymnasium, cinema, beauty salon and social club. This is known because the architects — Berger Devine Yaeger, of Kansas City — posted drawings on its website briefly until the State Department ordered their removal. The embassy was built with imported labour. Critics also portray the new compound as a symbol of American isolation and occupation, and a sign of how little confidence the US has in Iraq’s future.