Blackwater’s Iraq License Suspended
In January 2007, DID asked “Contractors on the Battlefield: Has Their Legal Status Just Changed?” Whether or not their legal status has changed under US military law, one of the world’s largest security contracting firms just got a very sharp reminder that accountable host governments will have a say as well.
At least 11 Iraqis were killed on Sept 17/07 when Blackwater USA contractors protecting a U.S. diplomatic convoy moving through a Baghdad neighborhood outside the fortified international zone came under attack and returned fire. Reports regarding the incident are conflicting, with the firm contending that its guards came under attack and acted lawfully. In response, Iraq’s Interior Ministry has suspended Blackwater’s license to operate in country pending its ongoing investigation, and added that it is reviewing all security companies working in the country.
Iraqi Prime Minsiter Maliki called Sunday’s shooting is the 7th “troubling incident” involving Blackwater. On the other hand, the Shia police force’s attempt to block a reinforcement convoy, and known police infiltration by terrorists loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, does make one wonder. Meanwhile, there are wider repercussions. The U.S. embassy in Iraq has temporarily banned diplomatic convoy movements outside the international zone until this situation is resolved. In addition, the U.S. and Iraqi governments are setting up a joint commission to examine the role of private security companies operating in Iraq.