Blackwater has thousands of workers in Iraq, providing security for American diplomats, companies, oil sites. If the ban has any teeth, this could force the US to INCREASE troop levels in Baghdad. Or, it could force a confrontation between the Bush administration, the US military and the Iraqi Government.
Sunday's firefight took place near Nusoor Square, an area that straddles the predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Mansour and Yarmouk.
In addition to the fatalities, 14 people were wounded, most of them civilians, the official said.
The ministry said the incident began around midday, when a convoy of sport utility vehicles came under fire from unidentified gunmen in the square.
The men in the SUVs, described by witnesses as Westerners, returned fire, and the witnesses said the vehicles are the kind used by Western security firms.- Advertisement -
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad confirmed a State Department convoy was in the area.
CNN described the Iraqi government's response:
"We have revoked Blackwater's license to operate in Iraq. As of now they are not allowed to operate anywhere in the Republic of Iraq," Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf said Monday. "The investigation is ongoing, and all those responsible for Sunday's killing will be referred to Iraqi justice."
Wired magazine's blog reports,
It's a move clearly meant to boost popular support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but it's not clear what exactly are the ramifications of the license revocation, or how that will affect Blackwater's security contract with the State Department.And Wired added, as a follow-up,
Is there even a license to revoke? Buzz on the contractor street is that it isn't clear how this development will affect Blackwater. Allegedly, Blackwater doesn't have a "license" to revoke, and its contracts with the State Department and CIA may not be immediately affected. This could play out in an interesting (albeit depressing) powerplay between the al-Maliki, Iraq's Ministry of Interior, and the U.S. Government.If the ban does have an effect, the loss of potentially thousands of the security personnel Blackwater provides could force the pentagon to station MORE troops in Baghdad. Who knows what effect this will have on General Petraeus's plans to reduce troop levels?