Today's hearing is our first since the attack in Libya that claimed the lives four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The events in Benghazi and ongoing threats to our embassies remind us of the dangers and difficulties of performing diplomatic missions. It is almost impossible to be an effective American diplomat without exposing oneself to risk. In some countries, these risks can be intense. Yet, exceptional Americans like Ambassador Stevens continue to volunteer for these assignments.
Chris' life and work resonate especially with our Committee, not merely because he was a talented diplomat, but also because he was one of us. On many occasions during his time as a detailee to the Republican staff in 2006 and 2007 he sat directly behind where I am sitting now. He staffed hearings on Lebanon, Iraq, and other Middle East topics. In fact, exactly six years ago today, he helped staff a hearing on Iran. After departing the Committee, he stayed in close touch with friends here, as he did at every stage in his career. We will miss our friend dearly and our thoughts go out to his family.
Although the death of Ambassador Stevens and three others was a blow to the State Department and our country as a whole, it also underscored the importance of our diplomacy and the difference that an Ambassador can make. All of us have read accounts of Chris Stevens' extraordinary service, and it should be clear to everyone that he was personally instrumental in advancing U.S. interests in Libya. We need good Ambassadors at their posts providing energetic leadership to their embassy teams.
I appreciate Ambassador Beecroft's courage and commitment in taking on an extremely difficult assignment that has been complicated even further by violence in the Middle East. He has been functioning as Chief of Mission for several months, and I believe we should move with dispatch to confirm him as our Ambassador to Iraq.
His experience with managing large embassies is especially critical given that the U.S. mission in Iraq is the biggest embassy in the world. The operation includes the huge Embassy Complex in Baghdad, several outlying facilities in Baghdad, about ten security cooperation and police training sites, and consulates in Basra and Erbil. Employees number approximately 1,600 U.S. direct hires, 240 Iraqis, and thousands of contractors.
Iraq sits astride the Sunni-Shia divide that has been the source of great conflict. Politically, Iraq remains fractured along sectarian lines, and those divisions appear to have deepened in the last year. Iraq's stability depends on it being integrated with responsible neighbors and the world community. Its long term future depends on its willingness to stand on the side of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.
Iraq's political fragmentation and corruption also present fundamental challenges to its economy. An annual World Bank report that analyzes the ease of doing business and the protection of property rights across 183 economies, ranked Iraq 164th in 2012, down five slots from its 2011 ranking. Despite Prime Minister Maliki's claims that Iraq is open for business, most interested investors and trade partners are challenged to get a visa or definitive answers from the government about its tender and bidding processes. According to the World Bank, Iraq last year implemented policies that made it more difficult for Iraqis themselves to do business.
I look forward to hearing Ambassador Beecroft's insights into the security situation in Iraq, as well as his views of the prospects for economic improvement and political stability. Beyond reports on the current status of Iraq, the Administration needs to illuminate U.S. intentions in Iraq for the long term. Though some significant downsizing has occurred, the Iraq operation continues to be enormously expensive. How does the Administration define U.S. goals in Iraq, what are the prospects for achieving these goals, and what resources will be required over the long term?
I thank the Chairman.