The Iraqi government, taking advantage of the autonomy granted by the Status of Forces Agreement that went into effect January 1, has informed US officials that it will not be renewing Blackwater’s operating license, according to this morning’s Washington Post. This does not come as a shock—the firm has been in Baghdad’s sights since at least September 2007, when its contractors opened fire in a traffic circle, killing 17 and wounding 24 others. The Iraqi government’s first attempt to boot Blackwater from the country came just days after the shootings when it revoked the company’s license, but US officials (enjoying a bit more authority at the time) simply ignored the order and went on to reaffirm Blackwater’s presence the following April, much to the Iraqis’ displeasure.
Blackwater has a short grace period as Baghdad finishes a draft of new guidelines that will govern the operations of private contractors. As Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Adbul-Karim Khalaf told the Post, “When the work of this committee ends, [private firms] will be under the authority of the Iraqi government, and those companies that don’t have licenses, such as Blackwater, should leave immediately.”
Don’t expect Blackwater to cry in its milk. The firm foresaw the eventuality of leaving Iraq and is in the throes of planning new lines of business, particularly in the area of military training. Guarding VIPs in war zones, as it turned out, was a politically dodgy business, despite the fact that Blackwater has never lost a client. As a pair of Blackwater execs told me a few months ago, the firm will be only too happy to move on to less controversial work.
Photo used under a Creative Commons license from abej2004.