American officials in Baghdad have been informed that the government of Iraq will not renew the license that allows Blackwater to operate inside that country. The decision follows the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty after the passage of a security pact that replaced the expired U.N. mandate that was in effect until midnight on 31 December, and was expected. Blackwater mercenaries have been involved in several incidents that left innocent Iraqi civilians dead. The most notable incident was the murderous rampage in September 2007 that left at least seventeen Iraqis dead at a busy traffic circle.
Individual Blackwater employees will not be automatically ejected from the country but will be allowed to stay on as private security contractors if they go to work for another company.
The officials said Blackwater must leave the country as soon as a joint Iraqi-U.S. committee finishes drawing up guidelines for private contractors under the security agreement. It is unclear how long that will take. Blackwater employees and other U.S. contractors had been immune from prosecution under Iraqi law.
"When the work of this committee ends," Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said, private security companies "will be under the authority of the Iraqi government, and those companies that don't have licenses, such as Blackwater, should leave Iraq immediately."
The State Department said Wednesday that its contractors will obey Iraqi law.
"We will work with the government of Iraq and our contractors to address the implications of this decision in a way that minimizes any impact on safety and security of embassy Baghdad personnel," spokesman Noel Clay said.
The Iraqi government revoked Blackwater’s license to operate after the slaughter of civilians in Nisoor Square, but the State Department under Bush had no interest in actual diplomacy and not only ignored the revocation, but a few months later renewed the companies contract.
Fortunately, there is a new administration and a new Secretary of State. And not a moment too soon!