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Iraq to Blackwater: Out with the Tide

Finding respondents to that Help Wanted ad the military put out looks like it just got a wee bit harder with the news that the Iraqi government has told a private security company that they've worn out their welcome.
Blackwater USA, an American contractor that provides security to some of the top American officials in Iraq, has been banned from working in the country by the Iraqi government after a shooting that left eight Iraqis dead and involved an American diplomatic convoy.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, said Monday that authorities had canceled the company’s license and that the government would prosecute the participants. But under the rules that govern private security contractors here, the Iraqis do not have the legal authority to do so.

The news was the topic of much discussion yesterday and rightly so, for it has the potential to have huge ramifications for both the Iraqi government and US forces in country. The decision places Prime Minister Al-Maliki in a tight spot. On the one hand, his already weakened administration needs to curry favor with the Iraqi people, who by an large are not fond of these guns for hire. On the other, the PM is still pretty beholden to the US, without whose patronage he would have little chance of lasting more than a fortnight.

For the US, the situation is even more precarious. We have come to rely pretty heavily on these private contractors to provide services that would otherwise have to be staffed by soldiers. But in doing so, we've placed ourselves in the predicament of having to choose which is more important: respecting the sovereignty and authority of the Iraq government or the security situation there. If we strike down the decision, the potential for Maliki's downfall will only increase because he will just be seen as a puppet. It will also give lie to all the so-called "progress" supposedly being made as the result of the surge.

At the same time, if these private companies start getting expelled whenever incidents like this occur, we place more and more burden on our already overstretched forces.

However you want to slice it, things just got that much tougher for all involved.

(Filed at State of the Day)

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