From Noah at Danger Room:
This sounds like a recipe for something very ugly. The Times is reporting that "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…”
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.
This is something we should be very concerned about. As we have architected it, private security forces like Blackwater are direct extensions of American military and civilian presence in Iraq. As we have architected the security and reconstruction efforts, any attack on them is an attack on American interests regardless of whether we view it as such or not. We should expect confrontations between Iraqi elements, government or otherwise, and private security forces as contractors become proxy targets for the U.S. to groups who wouldn’t otherwise overtly target the U.S. military.
Not good. Phase out contractors or bring under our wings, don’t let them hang outside because things will get ugly fast as both contractor and opportunist escalates to defend or attack.