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Blackwater’s gift to Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki

Deborah D. Avant, professor of political science and director of international studies at University of California, Irvine, and author of Think Again: Mercenaries from a few years ago, has this to say about the Blackwater contretemps in Iraq: Is it accidental that the Iraqi government's reaction to the latest Blackwater incident comes on the heels ...

Deborah D. Avant, professor of political science and director of international studies at University of California, Irvine, and author of Think Again: Mercenaries from a few years ago, has this to say about the Blackwater contretemps in Iraq:

Is it accidental that the Iraqi government's reaction to the latest Blackwater incident comes on the heels of U.S. criticism of Iraqi progress?

The United States sent in an army of private-security contractors (PSCs) with only a whiff of controversy as the insurgency mounted in Iraq—contrasting sharply with the hoopla over the so-called surge. But this week's media frenzy demonstrates the political pitfalls of a reliance on companies like Blackwater. The Iraqi government is certainly justified in raising questions about how these companies operate, especially regarding the still unclear legal status of PSC personnel. But the Iraqi government has reacted mildly to the dozen or so previous incidents that have reached the Western press, making Maliki's outraged calls for the expulsion of Blackwater and a review of all PSCs working in Iraq seem puzzling at first. One wonders, though, if Maliki’s reaction to this incident is driven by a desire to take the spotlight off the Iraqi government's failures and buy it some bargaining room, both in domestic circles and with the Americans. Practically, the United States cannot operate in Iraq without PSCs—and Maliki knows this. The chance to point a finger at one of the more controversial elements of U.S. strategy and put the United States on the hot seat even while sticking up for Iraqi sovereignty in a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad is probably too good for him to pass up.

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