Iraq deeply mistrusts private security companies and wants to limit their operations here, officials say, while the contractors themselves have faced bureaucratic delays and detentions.
This mistrust stems from perceived arrogant behavior by employees of these firms in the past and various incidents of violence involving them.
The most infamous incident was the 2007 killing of at least 14 civilians in Baghdad’s Nisur Square by gunmen from the Blackwater firm guarding a US embassy convoy.
While Blackwater, now called ACADEMI, was later banned from the country, security contractors still guard U.S. Diplomats in Iraq and provide security for various foreign companies.
“Iraq is not looking to expand the security companies’ work here,” Government Spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in an interview with AFP.
“We feel that Iraq should move to the normal life - we don’t want to see the tens of the security companies taking the job of the Ministry of Interior.
“Iraq has got a not friendly history with the security companies, especially ... Blackwater, and we don’t want to repeat that crisis again. So, we would like to limit their work here in Iraq, but we don’t want to stop them,” Dabbagh said.
The firms “have to understand that they don’t have free movement in the country. They have to follow the instructions, they have to hold the permit, a valid permit, and they are not allowed to violate the Iraqi laws.”
“They are not exempted as before, and they are not getting any sort of immunity,” he said.
“We do need them, definitely, we do need them, we are not going to stop them, but definitely, we will limit their work,” Dabbagh said.
The matter has also drawn the attention of Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee.
“After discussions with the interior ministry, we found that there are around 65 security companies, more than half of them Iraqi and the remainder foreign,” Committee Member MP Abbas al-Bayati told AFP.
Bayati said a small committee created to study the issue wants security companies to use only light weapons, and that they should obtain permission to move outside pre-determined areas.
The large number of contractors “negatively impacts the security situation in the country,” Iskander Witwit, another Member of the Committee said.
For his part, Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Assadi said on Iraqiya television that “the issue of the security companies is dangerous and we have to control it.”
However, he said it will take “at least five years” for foreign companies to trust Iraqi forces to see to their security.