US Consulate General Erbil Officially Opens, Embassy Baghdad Posts One Postage Sized Photo as Proof

US Embassy Iraq
Website Photo

Now they’re talking – via US Embassy Baghdad on July 11, 2011. I know it opened over the weekend, but, but …the work week in Iraq is Sunday through Thursday:

On July 10, U.S. Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides officially opened the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil, Iraq.  In attendance at the ceremony were Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani, Iraqi First Lady Hero Talabani, Iraqi Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Barham Salih, Legal Director of the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Arshad Tawfik and Director of Consular Affairs Ambassador Ismet Ageed, along with Ministers and Members of Parliament, civil society representatives, media, business leaders, and members of the diplomatic corps.

The U.S. Consulate General covers the three provinces of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region; Erbil, Sulymaniyah, and Dohuk, and succeeds the U.S. Regional Reconstruction Team (RRT), which has operated in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region since 2007.  Civilian U.S. agencies, working in partnership with military colleagues in the RRT, have made memorable and lasting contributions to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, including projects to provide water treatment, schools and other educational facilities, and an orphanage.

In remarks during the ceremony, Ambassador Jeffrey said “It is our fondest wish that a strong and vibrant Kurdistan Region within a democratic and federal Iraq arise from the tragic history of this region.  Our goal is to build an Iraq for all its citizens… Arabs and Kurds, Sunni and Shia, Christian and Muslim, Yezidi and Shebak, one that respects all its citizens and one which is governed by the rule of law.”  Ambassador Jeffrey also announced the appointment of Mr. Alexander Laskaris to the position of Consul General.

Today’s event also marked a celebration of the 235th anniversary of U.S. independence.  Noting the date, Ambassador Jeffrey said “I believe there is no better place to celebrate our Independence Day than here in a partner country fighting for its democracy.”

For further information please contact Selim Ariturk, Public Affairs Officer, Consulate General Erbil (phone 0770-443-0117, email:

Active links added above.  Um, would somebody please, pretty please inquire with the PAO at US Embassy Baghdad why they bother posting one postage sized photo of the event when no one can tell who’s who in that snapshot? That rightmost guy in the photo above looks like Leon Panetta; sure does look like the new SecDef, doesn’t he? And why post only one photo? Are they all camera-shy or something? Or are they afraid the Iraqis would stick pins at their photos?

Oops, wait, wait — I’m told that the rightmost person in the photo is not Leon Panetta but the new Consul General of ConGen Erbil, Alexander Laskaris. See below, the same photo posted on its Facebook page:

Photo from US Embassy Iraq/FB

Sorry, it’s not Leon Panetta! How in heaven’s name could I have made that mistake?

The largest US embassy in the universe, and they don’t have on-time, fresh from the oven news? And they can only share stamp-sized photographs? And the new consulates have yet to have an online presence … minor things done badly.  I feel much better thinking about the transition to a civilian-led mission already.

Pro-Assad “Mnhebak” Mob Attacks US Embassy Damascus, Syrian Forces Slug Rate Response at 0.03mph

Dirty Slugs Softball TeamImage via WikipediaVia Al Jazeera:

Supporters of the Syrian government have stormed the US and French embassies in Damascus, prompting strong condemnation by the two countries’ officials.

Witnesses describing Monday’s assault said the attackers smashed windows and raised a Syrian flag at the US diplomatic compound and wrote anti-American graffiti referring to the US ambassador as a “dog”.

A US official said the mob breached the wall of the embassy compound before being dispersed by Marine Corps guards.

No buildings were entered and there were no injuries to embassy personnel, but the chancery building was damaged and Syrian security forces were slow to respond, the official said.

Following the attack on the embassy, the residence of the US ambassador was attacked by a mob.

Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin notes that security in Syria is so tight that protesters would not have been able to get so close to the embassies without approval from the government. Click here to see a photo of the protesters scaling the walls of the US embassy.

In related news, Al Jazaeera also reports that Human Rights Watch official says interviews with defectors provide accurate and overwhelming evidence of massacres and that Syrian forces have been ‘ordered to shoot protesters’.

Unless the protesters are in front of the US or French Embassies, that is; they surely would not be shoot because who will be left to throw the eggs and tomatoes?

TSB of The Skeptical Bureaucrat also covers this here.

Below is a note from Ambassador Robert Ford, posted in the embassy’s FB page:

Outside the Embassy demonstrators complained about U.S. policy towards the Syrian government and my trip to Hama.

As I have said before, we respect the right of all Syrians – and people in all countries – to express their opinions freely and in a climate of mutual respect. We wish the Syrian government would do the same – and stop beating and shooting peaceful demonstrators. I have not seen the police assault a “mnhebak” demonstration yet. I am glad – I want all Syrians to enjoy the right to demonstrate peacefully. On July 9 a “mnhebak” group threw rocks at our embassy, causing some damage. They resorted to violence, unlike the people in Hama, who have stayed peaceful. Go look at the Ba’ath or police headquarters in Hama – no damage that I saw.

Other protesters threw eggs and tomatoes at our embassy. If they cared about their fellow Syrians the protesters would stop throwing this food at us and donate it to those Syrians who don’t have enough to eat. And how ironic that the Syrian Government lets an anti-U.S. demonstration proceed freely while their security thugs beat down olive branch-carrying peaceful protesters elsewhere.

The people in Hama have been demonstrating peacefully for weeks. Yes, there is a general strike, but what caused it? The government security measures that killed protesters in Hama. In addition, the government began arresting people at night and without any kind of judicial warrant. Assad had promised in his last speech that there would be no more arrests without judicial process. Families in Hama told me of repeated cases where this was not the reality. And I saw no signs of armed gangs anywhere – not at any of the civilian street barricades we passed.

Hama and the Syrian crisis is not about the U.S. at all. This is a crisis the Syrian people are in the process of solving. It is a crisis about dignity, human rights, and the rule of law. We regret the loss of life of all Syrians killed, civilians and security members both, and hope that the Syrian people will be able to find their way out of this crisis soon. Respect for basic human rights is a key element of the solution.

Perhaps if we move the US Embassy temporarily to Hama, the Syrian forces will leave the protesters alone? Given that the Syrian security forces at its fastest response rate had the speed of the slowest creature on earth — that’s the slug at 0.03mph, it would be a while before the protesters in Hama, 209 kilometers from Damascus would see the thugs, er security forces come and do something really bad. 

Another US Consulate General Opens — This Time in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan

Map of the Autonomous Region Kurdistan, create...Image via WikipediaLast Wednesday, the United States opened our newest US Consulate General in Basra, Iraq.  (see Newest US Consulate General Opens in Basrah, Iraq | Wednesday, July 6, 2011).

That record did not last very long.  By this weekend, ConGen Basra was not the newest post in the block anymore.  We have now opened the second, and the newest (todate) US Consulate General, this time in Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Here is a brief snapshot of the Regional Recontruction Team Erbil which has now transitioned to ConGen Erbil. Via US Embassy Baghdad:

Bordering Turkey to the north and Iran to the east, the three mountainous provinces of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region — Erbil, Dohuk, and Sulaimaniyah — are governed by an autonomous regional authority, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). This autonomy is recognized under the 2005 Iraqi Constitution. RRT Erbil is headed by a senior State Department Foreign Service Officer along with 20 civilians from the Department of State, USAID, and the Department of Justice. With two satellite offices in the other provinces with locally-hired staff, the U.S. Regional Reconstruction Team (RRT) in Erbil has a wholly civilian face. The RRT also employs 38 Iraqi Locally Engaged Staff, including an employee of the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service.

RRT members perform traditional diplomatic functions such as political and economic reporting, representation, public diplomacy, and providing policy advice for economic development, as well as working to combat violence against women and improve human rights, strengthening rule of law and working to improve the climate for U.S. businesses. RRT staff work to develop capacity in areas of national unity, governance, economic development, and rule of law.

McClatchy’s Roy Gutman writes that unlike Basra, where the new U.S. consulate is housed in a highly fortified military base, the consulate in Erbil is in a suburb close to the city’s airport in a compound of at least two dozen private homes, which the U.S. government is leasing to provide work space and housing for at least 15 diplomats.

Read his entire coverage here.

I have yet to see news/photos on this in US Embassy Baghdad’s website or FB page. I will add video/photos as they become available. The following via AkNews:

The former head of the the Regional Reconstruction Team (RRT) – working in Kurdistan since 2007 – Alex Lascaris has been appointed the Consul General whose duties cover the three provinces of Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Duhok.
President of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani addressed the gathered dignitaries: “Today is an important day. It is the day of renewing the years-long relations between the Kurdistan Region and the United States.”

Currently, there are 20 foreign consulates, trade offices and representations in the Kurdistan Region – only two of them from Arab states – Jordan and Egypt. Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Palestine are also expected to open consulates in the region in the near future.

They’re not the only ones flocking to the region.

In March last year, an Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) was created in Erbil by the American private sector operating in the Kurdistan Region.  OSAC is a State Department – private sector operational security cooperation headed by Diplomatic Security. It counts among its constituents over 7,500 U.S. companies, educational institutions, faith-based institutions, and non-governmental organizations.

Erbil OSAC is led by Steering Committee Chairman Ralph Gonzales of Hunt Oil and Vice-Chairman Matt McQuillen of Corvus LLC. Other members of the steering committee include Dennis Chalker of Vanguard Group, Mike Harting of RONCO, Jack Cowan of FLOUR, Sharon Linzey of Kurdistan Mission, Michael Cannon of DynCorp International, Marianne Elias-Turner of AMIDEAST, and Brad Camp of DARB Global. Constituent membership currently include over 40 organizations in the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and educational institutions with operations in the Kurdistan Region.

It will have a new member soon as Marriott International has just signed agreements with Empire Iraq to manage two new properties  in Erbil. According to Trade Arabia, the agreements, signed at the newly inaugurated US Consulate in Erbil, cover a 200-room, upscale Marriott Hotels & Resorts-branded hotel and a 75-unit deluxe Marriott Executive Apartments property. Both are planned to open simultaneously in 2014.

It looks like there will be no container housing in Erbil.


New Ambassadorship Opens – Available Now in Juba, South Sudan

Sudan combines the lands of several ancient ki...Image via WikipediaAt the stroke of midnight on 9 July 2011, South Sudanese burst into the streets to celebrate the birth of their new independent state. South Sudan in brief from the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS):

Known fondly as the “Heart of Africa”, Sudan is the largest country on the African continent covering  a total area of 2,505,813 sq. km. Southern Sudan borders Ethiopia to the east; Kenya, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo to the south; and Central African Republic to the west. The northern part is occupied by the vastly muslim Northern Sudan which controls the central government headquartered at Khartoum.

Southern Sudan consists of ten states which formerly composed the provinces of Equatoria (Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, and Western Equatoria); Bahr el Ghazal (Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes, and Warrap); and Upper Nile (Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile).

According to the State Department, following its declaration of independence, the United States will establish full diplomatic relations with the Republic of South Sudan, upgrading the U.S. Consulate General in Juba to a U.S. Embassy on July 9. Ambassador Barrie Walkley, the U.S. Consul General in Juba, will serve as Chargé d’Affaires pending the appointment of a U.S. Ambassador to Juba.

The United States Consulate General Juba opened in 2005. It is also the headquarters for the U.S. Agency for International Development mission in Juba.  The Chargé d’Affaires, Ambassador Walkley previously served as Ambassador to the Gabonese Republic (2004-2007), accredited concurrently as Ambassador to the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe and was Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea (2001-2004). Since retiring from the Department of State, he has twice been called back into service. He was Charge d’Affaires in Mauritius/Seychelles (2009- 2010) and now as the Chargé d’Affaires in Juba.  (Apparently if you’re a retired ambassador it is okay to work in challenging posts even after you’re past 65 years old, but not if you’re an ordinary FSO on the brink of being officially old at the magic age of 6-5).

I must note that ConGen Juba’s website was quickly upgraded to US Embassy Juba on Saturday. Its Facebook page has yet to catch up with the news when I last looked at it over the weekend. But even the CIA World Factbook need to do some catching up, its map of Sudan still includes South Sudan.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
Photos from
Delegation includes: Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Department of State; Ret. General Colin Powell, former Secretary of State for the United States; Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations; and Ambassador R. Barrie Walkley inaugurate the new U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan on July 9, 2011.

Anyway – for those looking for such an opportunity, there is a new ambassadorial gig, and its currently vacant.  Not sure any of those bundlers would be interested in the garden spot of Juba, but one never knows. According to Wikipedia, Southern Sudan is covered in tropical forest, swamps, and grassland. Its protected areas also host the second largest wildlife migration in the world.  And the White Nile passes through the country, even passing by its capital city, Juba. Technically speaking, you can river raft, but check before you start lobbying for the job. 

And just so you know —  apparently back in 2004,  there were only three surgeons serving southern Sudan, with three proper hospitals, and in some areas there was just one doctor for every 500,000 people. On July 10, Al Jazeera reports that the health ministry has plans to open a network of primary care centres – roughly one per 15,000 people – but none are fully operational. In addition, apparently, the military and police hospitals are closed, forcing hundreds of thousands of soldiers and officers to seek care from civilian facilities.

So if you want the gig, feel free to lobby your contacts at the White House. Just don’t get sick when you get to Juba.


US Consulate General Basrah, Iraq – Opening: Videos, Reax

I have previously posted about the opening of the new Consulate General in Al Baṣrah, Iraq (see Newest US Consulate General Opens in Basrah, Iraq | Wednesday, July 6, 2011). See below a couple of videos on ConGen Basra.

The Basrah Provincial Reconstruction Team transitions to a diplomatic post as US Consulate General Basrah.  Video is produced by DOD | Spc. Lisa Soule:

DOD’s 362nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment reports that the new Consul General, Piper A. W. Campbell, addressed the reception’s guests:

The consulate general in Basrah is a significant step forward in the transition from the civilian-military footprint the PRT had to a more diplomatic presence, said Campbell.

“The opening of the consulate today in Basrah is a huge step forward in the military-to-civilian transition,” said Cambell, “which people in the United States, as well as in Iraq, are eagerly watching and waiting for. So as we see the U.S. military drawing down in Iraq, it is very important that there is still a sense of connection and a sense of continuity. And the establishment of the consulate is a huge part of that.”

The reception’s guests included Jeffrey D. Feltman, assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Dr. Khalef Abdul Samed, Basrah provincial governor, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, U.S. Forces-Iraq commander, Iraqi dignitaries, and other Iraqi and U.S. officials.

Video below is via Al Jazeera with Iraqi reactions: