Americans are disgusted by a huge embassy in Lebanon
The new US embassy in Lebanon will soon be the second largest in the world. Many Lebanese do not like it.
Lebanon’s hilltops and mountain peaks are dotted with: ancient castles, built by rulers of the past. It is the legacy of the Fatimids, the Crusaders, and the Mamluks, sometimes preserved in good condition, and sometimes just a pile of stones.
It looks like the country will soon have another hill fort, as it turned out last week, one where tourists are unlikely to enter: the new US Embassy compound. The building will be located outside the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Last week, the embassy team proudly posted photos of the construction work that began in 2017. But instead of happy reactions, the message — which has already been viewed more than two million times — led to a small row.
The size of the embassy building in particular is alarming. It has been known for some time that the complex will cover a total area of more than 17 hectares, making it the largest embassy in the world after the US Embassy in Baghdad (42 hectares), but the photos make many Lebanese realize how big it really is. he. The construction cost is estimated at $1 billion. Will the United States move to Lebanon? Someone says sarcastically.
It disappears green
In addition, there is outrage that the entire hill has been stripped of all trees and other green spaces due to construction work. This is sensitive. Local environmental organizations have been warning for years that trees are disappearing in Lebanon at a rapid pace, including through illegal logging and forest fires, which are destroying local ecosystems and accelerating drought and desertification in the country. It is not known whether the Americans plan to replant the removed trees in the area.
Not everyone reacts indignantly. Some Lebanese hope to point out that the structure may symbolize how high the Middle East is on the list of priorities for the United States, despite Biden’s intention to engage in the region to a lesser degree than his predecessors. If there is anything to be read from the stones and the cement, it is that the Americans appear to be fully committed to the region. But since the construction plans were already drawn up and started under Obama and Trump, it can also be seen as a monument to the former foreign policy.
Despite the intentions of the current US administration to focus primarily on other continents, Beirut remains a strategic base for the entire region. The size of the new embassy also seems to indicate that soon the staff will no longer be solely interested in Lebanese affairs.
Hard to reach
The fact that the embassy complex will be located outside the capital fits with a broader trend. Where the American diplomatic corps used to favor elegant, atmospheric buildings, often in central locations in the capital, today American diplomats increasingly reside in large, walled compounds that are not easily accessible.
The tendency to isolation appeared for security reasons, including after the 1983 attack on the embassy in Beirut, and then in the west of the city, in which 63 people were killed, including 17 Americans. The State Department opened an investigation that resulted in the Inman Report. I made a series of recommendations—a building away from public roads, blast-resistant walls, not too many windows—that would improve the security of embassies around the world. Subsequent incidents, such as the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi in 2012, in which the ambassador was killed, have also added to the caution.
Although the new-style embassies, of which the compound in Lebanon is a model, are safer, not everyone is enthusiastic. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sighed in 2009: “We’re building the ugliest embassies I’ve ever seen. We’re building castles all over the world. That’s how we shut ourselves off from people in all those countries.”
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