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Op-Ed: Drawdown of some staff from Iraq embassy may become permanent

2019/07/14 | 04:08

(Iraq Now News)- If the reduction becomes permanent the US Embassy may face shortages of staff to undertake important jobs such as countering Iran on the diplomatic front.

The move has also marooned hundreds of withdrawn staff in the Washington area without any place to go for now.

The drawdown

Back in the middle of May the order was given to withdraw all non-essential staff from the Baghdad embassy as reported at the time: "The State Department has ordered all non-essential staff at the U.S.

Embassy in Baghdad to leave Iraq right away, a consequential decision that usually follows an expectation that some sort of major security threat or military action is imminent.

The decision comes a day after the U.S.

headquarters overseeing operations in the Middle East bolstered its self-defense posture, anticipating a new and as-yet publicly unspecified threat from Iran or its proxy forces operating in the region."

The reason was intelligence of a threat from Iran.

However, the embassy was never attacked.

It has never been made clear what the threat was.

One would think that since nothing seems to have happened that the staff would return but that has never happened.

As part of the drawdown 275 State Dept.

personnel were evacuated.

State Department official denies any decision has been made

A spokesperson for the US State Department claimed the report about the drawdown was inaccurate as no decision on a permanent staffing level had been made.

He said a review was in progress.

However, three other anonymous officials disagreed and claimed that after the evacuation in May the staffing levels were treated as a permanent cap on State Dept.

personnel in Iraq.

Other officials still claim the decision has been made

A senior anonymous State Department official claimed: “They’ve already quietly made the policy decision that they’re not sending these people back,” a senior State Department official familiar with internal deliberations told Foreign Policy.

But they’re not actually calling it a drawdown, they’re just saying they’re reviewing the ordered departure."

The embassy even with all non-essential staff gone has an estimated thousands still there but only a small number do work on core diplomatic functions.

Most are contractors from other federal agencies including security personnel and members of the intelligence community.

After the evacuation, only 15 State Department officials are left working on diplomatic functions.

A senior official claimed: “We took a powerful functioning embassy that was keeping Iranian influence at bay, and created space for the U.S.

to exert influence, and we gutted it.” Another official said that it seemed as if the State Department was abandoning Iraq.

There appears to be a debate within the Trump administration as to how to wind down expensive involvement in costly Middle East conflicts and also Afghanistan and this is happening even as tensions rise with Iran.

Trump wants to address other issues such as growing competition with Russia and China.

The US embassy in Baghdad

The US embassy in Baghdad is the largest and most expensive embassy in the world: "The Embassy of the United States of America in Baghdad is the diplomatic mission of United States of America in the Republic of Iraq.

Ambassador Matthew Tueller is currently the Chief of Mission.

At 104 acres (42 ha), it is the largest and most expensive embassy in the world, and is nearly as large as Vatican City.[2] The embassy complex is about five times the size of the U.S.

Embassy in Yerevan, which is the second largest U.S.

diplomatic mission abroad, and over ten times the size of the U.S.

Embassy in Beijing, which is the third largest U.S.

diplomatic mission abroad.[3]The embassy opened in January 2009 following a series of construction delays.

It replaced the previous embassy, which opened July 1, 2004 in Baghdad‘s Green Zone in a former Palace of Saddam Hussein.[4] The embassy complex cost $750 million to build and reached a peak staffing of 16,000 employees and contractors in 2012.[5]"

The size and expense of the embassy shows the importance Iraq had for the US when it was built.

Perhaps Iraq has diminished in importance over the years.

The defeat of Hussein placed Iraq squarely under the influence of Iran.

If there was any winner in the Iraq war it was Iran.

This opinion article was written by an independent writer.

The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com

Note: The post (Op-Ed: Drawdown of some staff from Iraq embassy may become permanent) appeared first on (Iraq Today) and do not necessarily reflect the position of IraqNow.news.
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