ERBIL, Kurdistan (Rudaw) – In a sign of long-term commitment to its already thriving diplomatic mission in the Kurdistan Region, the US will soon lay the groundwork for its biggest consulate complex, Erbil, reiterating the strategic importance of the region for Washington.
The new US consulate building will cost $600 million, and will be built on 200,000 square meters on Erbil-Shaqlawa Road. The Erbil complex will be constructed by four American and some local companies and will finish in four years. The building will be bigger than the US’s second biggest embassy building which is in Yerevan, Armenia.
“We signed the project for the US Consulate General building in Erbil when Matthias Mitman was the Consul,” Falah Mustafa, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Foreign Relations Office, said. “The US relations with the Kurdistan Region are not new. The US has had a significant role in the making of today’s Kurdistan since 1991.”
The US initially opened a diplomatic office in Erbil in February 2007, which it later upgraded to a consulate general in 2011. US President Barack Obama declared in his first speech on the emergence of the Islamic State (ISIS) that Erbil was a “red line” for Washington. This show of support was decisive in preventing the ISIS from reaching the Kurdish capital.
The US consulate general building in Erbil is second only to the US Embassy’s building in Baghdad which is built on 420,000 square-meters. The US embassy in Baghdad was built in 2009 and is its biggest mission compound in the world which cost the country $750 million, a complex the size of the Vatican.
“The US moved forward to repel the ISIS attacks and showed its commitment to protect the Kurdistan Region when Erbil was under ISIS threat in 2014,” Mustafa added.
The US looked at the Kurdistan Region differently prior to the emergence of the ISIS threat. Mustafa expressed he believed this positive support from the US to Erbil will continue.
“Erbil is now a red line for the US because they believe in the future of Kurdistan. Relations between the Kurds and the US were not forged overnight,” Mustafa said.
The US has had a diplomatic and military presence in Erbil. Washington set up a military base in Kurdistan following the emergence of the ISIS threat.
“The US military base will remain here as long as the threat of terror remains and this threat will not vanish in a matter of days,” Mustafa explained.
There are currently 30 consulates, six honorary consulates, and six foreign trade offices in Erbil. The latest to open in Kurdistan was the Japanese consulate on Jan. 11.
The existence of the various different diplomatic missions in Erbil has upset neighboring Iran. A commander from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) recently expressed his concerns about the increasing number of foreign representations in the Kurdistan Region, claiming that they were aimed at destabilizing the security of Iran.
“Opening more than 30 consulates is not normal,” Iranian Brigadier General Mohammad Hossein Rajabi criticized. Most of these consulates are used for espionage activities.”
“We hope that states do not take the problems or struggles they might have to the Kurdistan Region,” Mustafa said in response to the IRGC commander. “We find it strange for a neighboring country to meddle in our affairs and set paths for us. We respect relations with our neighbors. We hope for mutual relations and understanding with our neighbors.
“We are not a threat to any country. Our past shows this. We are open in doing politics and will not become part of any regional or international struggle.”
The United States’ biggest consulate building in the world is currently in the city of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. It is a four-story building that had a construction cost of $66 million. The mission was opened in 2008 and has 300 employees.