The United States' hulking $750 million Baghdad embassy is home to 16,000 staff and carries a $6 billion price tag annually—and it's about to get slashed in half in the wake of US troops' departure, reports the New York Times. It's quite the about-face for the State Department, which recently spent a year planning a buildup that has given it a diplomatic presence larger than any in the world. But it apparently neglected to clear its plan with Iraq: Embassy officials now blame Iraqi obstructionism for everything from delayed food supplies to hefty waits for American visas, and say that security concerns have left them largely cloistered within their four walls.
Iraq, the Times notes, never sought such a large diplomatic presence, and views the Americans with suspicion even as it flexes its own nascent governmental muscle. “The US had something on their mind when they made it so big," says one Iraqi lawmaker. "Perhaps they want to run the Middle East from Iraq, and their embassy will be a base for them here." To make the cuts, an embassy spokesman says the US is scaling back "the number of contractors needed to support the embassy's operations," and "hiring Iraqi staff and sourcing more goods and services to the local economy."