The Iraqi government has told the US that it must cut its ties with private security firm Blackwater. Some of the company's employees are accused of firing on Iraqi civilians, killing at least 17, although Blackwater insists its people did nothing wrong. The whole thing's been a big embarrassment for the US, and has severely strained its relations with Iraqi officials in Baghdad.
The Iraqis don't have much choice but to send Blackwater home, otherwise they'll lose what little credibility they've still got with their own people. But this is unlikely to be the last such controversy we'll see in Iraq. In the coming years, as the Americans do as the British are doing and remove their forces from frontline duties, ultimately bringing them home, private security firms are going to be called on to take up the slack. Many of the men who work for them are ex-soldiers anyway, earning much more than they'd ever be able to in the military. Those in the US who still support keeping American troops in Iraq often say an Iraq without the American military could be more violent and chaotic than the Iraq of today. The Blackwater affair offers a preview of one aspect of that post-occupation Iraq.