The size and scope of the American Embassy in Baghdad has been something of a major news story in the U.S. – but not so much in Iraq. Until now that is. For Iraq’s Al-Iraq News, Ibrahim Zaidan reports that with the U.S. supposedly ‘withdrawing’, Iraqi lawmakers and religious figures are demanding to know why Washington needs a $6.2 billion embassy staffed by 16,000 people that is bigger than Vatican City.
For the Al-Iraq News, Ibrahim Zaidan’s 2,000 word report says in part:
There has been a tremendous reaction to the suspicious nature of the U.S. Embassy.
Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadrist Movement, believes that if staff at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad remains as big as it is now after 2011, they will be considered occupiers and must be resisted.
Maha Al Duri, a Sadrist Movement member of the Council of Representatives [parliament] asserts that, “the maintenance of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq after 2011 is another face of the occupation, since it will include large numbers of staff and security staff thought to be in the many thousands. The U.S. Embassy will inject itself into every detail – small and large – of Iraqi domestic affairs, whether they relate to politics, economics or anything else.”
Representative Talal al-Zawbaii didn’t conceal his agitation when he said, “We have serious concerns about the continuing presence of 15,000 embassy staff after the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, because a good number of them will be employed for intelligence purposes.” He demanded the Iraqi government reveal the true purpose of maintaining such a large number of staff members and to pressure the American side to cut the number, given their effect on the future of the country and particularly the influence they will have on Iraqi government decision-making.
Council Speaker Ussama Al Nujayfi said to talk of 15,000 U.S. Embassy staff after the pullout makes no sense, stressing that an explanation from both the White House and Iraqi government is required.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Qassim Al Ta’ee, the only Iraqi religious leader to completely forbid cooperation with the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, said in his fatwa, “We must work on creating profiles for all of those who have been co-opted by the embassy to differentiate them from everyone else in Iraqi society, so we can ostracize them and socially exclude them. Everyone should boycott them and reject their work and collaboration with the U.S. Embassy.” The sheikh warned against complacency in regard to the embassy, and called on the Council of Representatives and government to reexamine the situation with great seriousness, and develop appropriate solutions to what he called, “that joke of an embassy” where the “ambassador looks down on the Iraqi people and government.”
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