The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future.
The embassy complex -- 21 buildings on 104 acres, according to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee report -- is taking shape on riverside parkland in the fortified "Green Zone."
"Embassy Baghdad" will dwarf new U.S. embassies elsewhere, projects that typically cover 10 acres. The embassy's 104 acres is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York, and two-thirds the acreage of Washington's National Mall.
It will have its own water wells, electricity plant and wastewaster-treatment facility, "systems to allow 100 percent independence from city utilities," says the report, the most authoritative open source on the embassy plans.
Security, overseen by U.S. Marines, will be extraordinary: setbacks and perimeter no-go areas that will be especially deep, structures reinforced to 2.5-times the standard, and five high-security entrances, plus an emergency entrance-exit, the Senate report says.
Consider all that security and self-containment in the light of this:
Iraq's interim government transferred the land to U.S. ownership in October 2004, under an agreement whose terms were not disclosed.
The interim government referred to was, as readers will remember, appointed by the United States, and while it was recognized by the United Nations as being the "sovereign government" of a "sovereign country," that can't really be taken seriously, any more than the Platt Amendment, signed at the point of a gun, by which the U.S. gained control of Guantanamo. Can we expect the U.S. to be occupying this fortress in the heart of Baghdad indefinitely in the future, even in the face of a future hostile Iraqi government? My money's on "yes," which is why they've already designed it for the security and self-sufficiency they had to build into Guantanamo years later.