Blackwater Update

BLACKWATER UPDATE….Apparently the Blackwater incident is not settling down:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki on Wednesday demanded that the U.S. Embassy here replace the private security company Blackwater USA because of its involvement in a weekend shooting incident that reportedly left 11 Iraqis dead.

….At a news conference, an angry Maliki said North Carolina-based Blackwater, which has nearly 1,000 employees in Iraq, was also responsible for six similar shootings since being hired by the U.S. State Department to guard its diplomats after the American-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003….”This company should be punished,” Maliki said. “We are not going to allow it to kill Iraqis in cold blood.”

UC Irvine professor Deborah Avant points out that Maliki hasn’t complained about any of these previous incidents, and may be using this one to help his own flagging political fortunes:

The chance to point a finger at one of the more controversial elements of U.S. strategy and put the United States on the hot seat even while sticking up for Iraqi sovereignty in a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad is probably too good for him to pass up.

I suppose compromise is still the most likely outcome of this (as Avant points out, Maliki knows perfectly well that the U.S. can’t operate in Iraq without private-security contractors), but the more it heats up the more dangerous compromise becomes. Maliki may be earning some credibility in Sunni quarters right now, but that’s nothing compared to the credibility he’ll lose if he’s seen to back down. Stay tuned.