The International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization that seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, has identified the complex as the world's largest embassy. The organization notes that the embassy is a sore point with Iraqis who are fed up with war, violence and roadblocks and chafing under the perception the US still calls the shots more than four years after Saddam's ouster.
The embassy also is a prime target.
The area around the construction site was hit with mortar fire this month. Other areas of the US-controlled Green Zone were hit on consecutive days last week.
The increase in mortar and rocket attacks on the Green Zone has raised concern, especially because they are occurring during a US-led security crackdown in Baghdad.
The embassy has ordered its staff to wear flak jackets and helmets while outdoors or in unprotected buildings. The order was issued one day after a rocket attack killed four Asian contractors in the Green Zone this month.
It is unclear who is responsible for the recent attacks. Some barrages came from Shiite-dominated areas in eastern Baghdad. But the Green Zone also is within range of Sunni militant strongholds to the south.
The State Department and Congress have tussled this year over a $50 million request for additional blast-resistant housing. The department says it did not anticipate needing so many fortified apartments when the embassy was in the planning stages three years ago and Iraq was a less violent place.
The new Democratic-controlled Congress has grumbled about the approximately $1 billion annual cost of embassy operations in Iraq and told the administration the embassy is overstaffed at roughly 1,000 regular employees. Add security contractors, locally hired staff and others and the number climbs to more than 4,000.
"This is another case where poor planning, skyrocketing costs and security concerns are colliding in the Bush administration's policies in Iraq, and we need to make adjustments," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate panel that pays for State Department operations.
"They want hundreds of additional embassy staff who they cannot safely house within the new embassy compound. It's time for a reality check," said Leahy, D-Vt.