Global Policy Forum

Back to Iraq? Only If Invited, Contractor Says

 In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, President and CEO of Xe Services LLC (formerly Blackwater) Ted Wright announced that he would like to do business in Iraq again, if the Iraqi government would allow it. Blackwater was evicted from Iraq in 2007 when its contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians in a shootout in Baghdad. As the US military begins to pull out of Iraq, the US government will rely more on private security contractors.

By Nathan Hodge

September 29, 2011

Xe Services LLC, a top provider of security services to U.S. diplomats and officials working in dangerous places, wants to revamp its image. But it’s still excluded from one very important market: Iraq.

U.S. forces are slated to leave Iraq by year’s end. But while discussions are under way about keeping a few thousand troops there as a residual force, the private security presence there is likely to grow. Officials say the State Department plans to hire a private force — over 5,000 strong — to protect diplomatic personnel, guard embassy buildings and operate a fleet of aircraft and armored vehicles.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Xe President and Chief Executive b said the company still wants to work in Iraq, but added: “It’s too early to say whether I could be successful doing it.”

A bit of history is in order here. The company, then known as Blackwater, was forced out of Iraq after its contractors were involved in a deadly shootout in Baghdad in 2007 that claimed the lives of 17 Iraqi civilians. The U.S. government’s reliance on private security contractors infuriated many Iraqis.

“Would I like to go back into Iraq?” Mr. Wright said. “Certainly.

“Would the Iraqi government accept us in Iraq? That’s really the question.”

Under Mr. Wright’s leadership, the company has stepped up an effort to repair the company’s image. Xe officials say the emphasis is now on regulatory and legal compliance and corporate governance. Still, Xe’s return to Iraq might likely stir controversy.

At present, 95% of the company’s business is derived from federal government contracts. Mr. Wright said he would also like to build out the company’s private-sector clientele, particularly in the oil and gas industry.

“I would love to do business there [in Iraq],” he said. “I think that we could serve all customers there very well, whether they are commercial customers or government customers.”


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