Lebanon’s hilltops and hilltops are littered with them: ancient palaces, once built by past rulers. It is a legacy of the Fatimids, Crusaders and Mamluks, sometimes well preserved, sometimes a pile of stones.
It looks like the country will soon get another mountain fortress that, it turned out earlier this month, will be less accessible to tourists: the new compound of the US Embassy. The building will be located just outside the Lebanese capital Beirut. Last week, the diplomatic corps proudly tweeted 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 staggering. It’s been known for some time that the compound will have a total area of 17 hectares, making it the world’s largest embassy next to the US Embassy in Baghdad (42 hectares), but the photos make many Lebanese realize just how enormous it really is. has Construction cost is estimated at $1 billion. “Is the US moving into Lebanon?” Someone sarcastically remarks.
Also, there is anger that trees and other greenery have been removed from the entire hill due to the construction work. It is sensitive; Local environmental groups have warned for years that Lebanon’s trees are rapidly disappearing, with illegal logging and forest fires destroying local ecosystems and accelerating the country’s drought and desertification. It is not known if the Americans plan to replant the removed trees in the area.
Not everyone reacts with enthusiasm. Some Lebanese note with optimism that even if Biden wants to be less involved in the region than his predecessors, the Middle East will indicate how high the Middle East is on the U.S. priority list. If Stones and Cement is anything to go by, it seems that Americans are indeed fully committed to the region. But it can also be seen as a relic of past foreign policy, with construction plans already drawn up and underway under Obama and Trump.
Despite the intentions of the current US administration to focus mainly on other continents, Beirut remains a strategic base for the entire region; The size of the new embassy indicates that the staff will soon be concerned not only with Lebanese affairs.
It is in line with the wider trend that the embassy complex will be located outside the capital. American diplomatic corps prefer chic, atmospheric buildings, often in central locations in the capital, while American diplomats are now housed in large, walled compounds that are not easily accessible.
The trend towards isolation for security reasons arose after the 1983 attack on the embassy in Beirut that left 63 people dead, including seventeen Americans, later in the west of the city. The State Department launched an investigation as a result of Inman’s report. It made a series of recommendations to improve the security of embassies around the world – public roads, blast-proof walls, building with more windows. Subsequent incidents, such as the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that killed the ambassador, added to the alarm.
While the new-style embassies, of which the campus in Lebanon is a model, are secure, not everyone is excited. In 2009, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry sighed. This is how we isolate ourselves from the people in those countries.
“Explorer. Devoted travel specialist. Web expert. Organizer. Social media geek. Coffee enthusiast. Extreme troublemaker. Food trailblazer. Total bacon buff.”