WASHINGTON — The walled U.S. Embassy on 104 acres along the Tigris River in Baghdad will have 619 one-bedroom apartments, a recreation center with a pool and gym, and two office buildings. A third building is designed for future use as a school. The compound will have its own power generator — in a city where most people are without electricity much of the time — and water-treatment plant.
The size and independent nature of the embassy have drawn criticism.
"What they want to do is create a self-contained city," said Michael Rubin, an analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research center.
"You go to Baghdad at night, and if you're in an area that can't afford its generators or where the generators are out for maintenance, it's blacked out. You look to the U.S. Embassy — the center of town where Saddam's palaces used to be — and the lights are shining bright," he said.
In Baghdad's Adhamiyah suburb, a 51-year-old accountant who for security reasons wanted to be identified only as Jassim said, "I always ask myself why do they always have such a big embassy in such a hostile environment. I'm 100 percent sure someday they will leave it. Let them build it for us."
But Juvencio Lopez of San Antonio, a former project director at the embassy construction site, said he doubted the United States would ever abandon the compound.
"If the U.S. military leaves, we'd have to blow it up" to keep security secrets from falling into the wrong hands, Lopez said. "There's certain key designs for those buildings that we just don't want everybody to know. The Baghdad Embassy was the prototype of all future embassies."
(Leila Fadel contributed to this article from Baghdad.)
McClatchy Newspapers 2007