Iraq Government Takes the Day Off

U.S. officials already banned from travel in Baghdad.

Despite Sunday's gun battle in Baghdad in which 20 civilians were killed by Blackwater mercenaries, there are new reports that the Iraqi government may not cancel Blackwater's contract after all.

No surprise there, because Iraq's foundering government seems to have been canceled.

Radio Free Iraq reports that the Iraqi Parliament called off its September 18 session because a majority of its members didn't show up for work. The parent Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty news service says in today's roundup:

Only 115 out of 275 parliamentarians appeared for the session. Meanwhile, a committee formed by the United Iraqi Alliance has failed to lure parliamentarians loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr back to work, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on September 18. The news channel also reported that "some members" of the so-called moderates' front in the parliament asked two members of the Iraqis List to leave the list and join the front in exchange for government posts and other privileges.

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U.S. officials have already been forbidden to travel outside the Green Zone. Iraqi officials, targeted by insurgents, don't want to travel either.

Bring in more mercenaries! That seems to be the message. Tel Aviv-based Dominic Moran of Zurich's International Relations and Security Network (ISN) reports today:

The Iraqi government appears to be backing down from an earlier pledge to revoke the operating license of the largest private foreign security contractor in the country, Blackwater USA.

Providing a good roundup of U.S. mercenary work, Moran also notes:

The [Sunday] deaths again turn the spotlight on the extensive use of private security contractors by US government agencies in Iraq. Blackwater is the largest private security firm involved in the conflict, with an estimated 1,000 personnel on the ground, and has benefited from at least US$750 million in US State Department contracts since mid-2004 according to the UK daily The Guardian. Many contracts have allegedly been secured without a tendering process.

The current use of private security contractors in Iraq is unprecedented in scale for a US overseas entanglement, with security companies employing around 48,000 personnel. Most work on limited rotations cycling in and out of the country with the expiry of contracted agreements. The same is true in Afghanistan.

The unprecedented reliance on the services of private security contractors was underlined Tuesday with the US decision to suspend all overland travel by its diplomats and related civilian workers beyond the confines of the Baghdad Green Zone.


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