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.