Construction of the U.S. embassy in Iraq, set to open in September, is projected to cost $592 million, with a staff of 1,000 people and operating costs totaling $1.2 billion a year. It will be a 104-acre complex, which is the size of approximately 80 football fields. On May 10, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) criticized the ballooning size and cost of the embassy in a hearing with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
Now, having said over and over again that we don’t want to be seen as an occupying force in Iraq, we’re building the largest embassy that we have — probably the largest in the world — in Baghdad. And it just seems to grow and grow and grow. … We agree that we should focus our aid locally not in Baghdad, but we have 1,000 Americans at the embassy in Baghdad. You add the contractors and the local staff it comes to 4,000.
The complex “will include two office buildings, one of them designed for future use as a school, six apartment buildings, a gym, a pool, a food court and its own power generation and water-treatment plants.”
The U.S. embassy is likely to create even greater Iraqi resentment toward the U.S. occupation. While Americans will be living in posh quarters, the citizens of Baghdad are forced to survive with just 5.6 hours of electricity a day. Baghdad was also recently rated the world’s worst city in which to live.
UPDATE: The residence of the U.S. ambassador to Iraq will be 16,000 square feet. The deputy chief of mission in Iraq will have a “cozy cottage” measuring 9,500 square feet.