New US embassy complex in Lebanon sparks controversy

A new US embassy being built in Beirut, Lebanon, has garnered controversy for its size and extravagance, while most of the population lives beneath the poverty line.

Located approximately eight miles from downtown Beirut, the new compound is being built on a 43-acre lot next door to the current embassy in Awkar.

The investment is worth an estimated $1bn, according to the initial press release announcing the new construction in 2015.

Illustrations of the embassy show it complete with a community plaza, offices, a recreational pool area and more.

Some people on Twitter raised questions about the opulent embassy given that many people in the country struggle to make ends meet.

“Are you sure you made it big enough,” one Twitter user wrote.

“Is that an embassy or the 51st state?” another person asked.

“Compound? That’s a walled city-state,” another person tweeted.

Some wondered why the US embassy in Lebanon was so large when few Americans travel to the country. At the moment, the US has a Level 3 travel warning which urges Americans to reconsider traveling to the country due to “crime, terrorism, armed conflict, civil unrest, kidnapping and Embassy Beirut’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens.”

“Did the U.S. move to Lebanon?” another Twitter user wrote.

“Maybe you’ll have enough room to work on all those pending visa applications,” Abed Ayoub, the executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, tweeted.

According to Human Rights Watch, “Over 70 per cent of [Lebanese] households said they were always behind on basic expenses or having difficulty making ends meet.”

More than a third of Lebanese households with children said they were having difficulty paying for their children’s school meals.

The Human Rights Watch organisation attributed this to high inflation and low incomes.

Four out of 10 households in Lebanon earn less than $100 per month. The median income ranges from $78 per month to $157.