Pajamas Media's Richard Miniter has a fascinating read on the "perfect storm" that's forming against a key aspect of U.S. security operations in Iraq. That storm is already affecting critical activities on the ground, and (left unchecked) Mr. Miniter believes it could undermine the entire war effort.
He refers to Iraqi government attempts to "pull" the license of Blackwater USA, the private security contractor which provides protection to a number of American civilians operating in Iraq, including State Department teams, reconstruction personnel and CIA operatives. Iraqi officials threatened to expel the firm from Iraq over the weekend, after a Blackwater security team killed eight "civilians" in a shootout.
As a result of that incident, according to Mr. Miniter, key activities on the ground--including meetings between CIA agents and their contacts--have ground to a halt. Without Blackwater protection teams, U.S. civilians have been forced to remain in the Green Zone, hastily cancelling planned meetings with their Iraqi counterparts. Miniter reports that movement by members of CIA's Baghdad station have virtually ground to a halt, and other American officials remain trapped in the Green Zone as well.
Miniter also adds a pair of important elements to the story--elements (predictably) ignored by the MSM:
“Initial press accounts were inaccurate,” said Blackwater USA spokeswoman Anne Tyrell. “The ‘civilians’ reportedly fired upon by Blackwater professionals were in fact armed enemies and Blackwater personnel returned defensive fire. Blackwater regrets any loss of life but this convoy was violently attacked by armed insurgents, not civilians, and our people did their job to defend human life.”
“Blackwater professionals heroically defended American lives in a war zone on Sunday and Blackwater will cooperate with any inquiry into this matter.”
It’s well known in Iraq that dead insurgents become “civilians” as soon as their comrades carry away their AK-47s and spare magazines. Captured al Qaeda manuals detail how militants should use deaths as a propaganda tool.
By apparently lifting Blackwater’s license, the democratically elected Iraq government may stall the forward progress created by the Gen. Petraeus’ surge and change in counterinsurgency tactics.Indeed, some contend that the actions of Iraq’s Ministry of Interior, which supervises police and some intelligence functions, may be influenced by insurgents or even by Iran.
The staffing and internal rules of the Interior ministry were set up by Biyat Jabr, an affable and charming Shia Muslim who once worked for Saddam Hussein. (He was never a member of the Ba’ath party and thus survived de-Ba’athification with ease.)Jabr is widely believed to be in the pay of Iranian intelligence services, although U.S. officials caution that there is no firm evidence of this charge.
Jabr left the ministry in August 2006 and is now Finance Minister, but before he exited he salted the ranks with people loyal to Iran and hostile to the U.S. “Innocents dying [in the Sunday gun battle with Blackwater] is just a pretext,” the same State department source said.
Enemies of the U.S. inside the Interior ministry have been looking to shut down Blackwater for some time.
The security firm's Iraqi opponents have friends in Washington, too. As Mr. Miniter reports, that aspect of the "storm" is moving forward as well, with one goal in mind--getting Blackwater out of Iraq:
Both the State department and the Congress have signaled that investigations in to Blackwater will begin soon.
The State department hopes to shift blame onto Blackwater’s low-level “trigger pullers,” says the State department source, while Rep. Henry Waxman’s committee is expected to target senior executives at Blackwater and top Bush Administration officials. A perfect storm is set to roil Blackwater.
Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence operatives, diplomats and aid officials remain stuck in the Green Zone, unable to conduct required meetings for gathering information on terrorists, or advance the tasks of political reconciliation and rebuilding. True, there are other security firms, but few have the experience or expertise of Blackwater, which is heavily staffed with former members of U.S. special forces. And it could take months for a new company--even one with existing ops in Iraq--to fully assume the security duties handled by the North Carolina firm.
But that doesn't matter. Iraq officials behind the expulsion effort have their own agenda (which may originate in Iran), as do Congressional Democrats. Blackwater, with its ties to the GOP, has become the "new Haliburton," a convenient corporate target for attacking our involvement in Iraq. Never mind that Blackwater actually has an excellent record in providing security in high-threat environments. And never mind that Blackwater is one of only a few companies that can do the job.
The ripple effects of last Sunday's shootout will be felt across Iraq--and not just in the public investigation that is now on-going. As Mr. Miniter reminds us, the real impact of that incident will be felt in meetings that are cancelled, intelligence that cannot be gathered, and schools that aren't rebuilt. That, in turn, will advance Iran's cause in Iraq, and the anti-war agenda of Democrats in Washington, while hindering critical operations in the war zone.
A perfect storm, indeed.