The Iraqi interior minister said Wednesday that he would authorize raids by his security forces on Western security firms to ensure that they were complying with tightened licensing requirements on guns and other weaponry, setting up the possibility of violent confrontations between the Iraqis and heavily armed Western guards.
“Every company will be subject to such examination, and any company that does not follow the law will lose its license,” the minister, Jawad al-Bolani, said of the planned raids. “They are called security companies. They are not called violate-the-law companies.”
Yeah, right. Wait until they try to raid Blackwater.
Within Baghdad’s relatively safe and heavily guarded Green Zone, there have been early indications of a battle over who controls Iraqi streets. Private security guards say that Iraqi police officers have already descended on Western compounds and stopped vehicles driven by Westerners to check for weapons violations in recent weeks.
Any extension of those measures into the rest of the country, known as the Red Zone, could quickly turn into armed confrontation. Westerners are wary of Interior Ministry checkpoints, some of which have been fake, as well as of ministry units, which are sometimes militia-controlled and have been implicated in sectarian killings. Western convoys routinely have to choose between the risk of stopping and the risk of accelerating past what appear to be official Iraqi forces.
And because Western convoys run by private security companies are often protecting senior American civilian and military officials, the Iraqi government’s struggle with the companies has in some cases become a sort of proxy tug-of-war with the United States.
That dynamic was laid bare in the weeks immediately after the shooting on Sept. 16 in Nisour Square in Baghdad. The Iraqi government at first suggested that it would ban Blackwater, which has a contract to protect American diplomats, from working in Iraq. But the government was embarrassed when it discovered that its legal options were limited, and the United States — after placing a few new restrictions on the company — quickly sent it back onto the streets.
Based on its own investigation, the Iraqi government has concluded that the Blackwater guards who opened fire committed murder. An American investigation led by the F.B.I. has not yet publicly announced any results.
“But the government was embarrassed when it discovered that its legal options were limited…”
Imagine this… some gang members open fire on random civilians in downtown LA. The LA cops, LA’s mayor, California’s governor, and the government of the US want something done. But the government of another country puts the kibosh on taking any action. The gang members cannot be arrested or prosecuted – they can’t even be kicked out of the country or removed from the city. Can a situation like that be described with the word “sovereignty.”