Movements of key CIA station personnel in Baghdadâ€”along with most State department diplomats and teams building police stations and schoolsâ€”have been frozen for the second day in a row, according to a State department source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Essentially, the CIA, State department and government contractors are stuck inside the International Zone, also known as â€œthe Green Zone,â€ in Central Baghdad. Even travel inside that walled enclave is somewhat restricted.
Pajamas Media is the first to report that the CIA station is all but motionlessâ€”as meetings with informants and Iraqi government officials have been hastily cancelled.
What caused the shut down? Following a firefight between Iraqi insurgents and a Blackwater USA protection detail on Sunday (12:08 PM Baghdad time), Iraqi officials suspended the operating license of the North Carolina-based government contractor. While the Iraqi government is yet to hold a formal hearing on the matter, Blackwater and all it protects remain frozen.
â€œBy jamming up Blackwater, they shut down the movements of the embassy and the [CIA] station,â€ a State department source told Pajamas Media. He is not cleared to talk to the press.
Blackwater provides Personnel Security Detailsâ€”or PSDsâ€”for most CIA, State department, and U.S. Agency of International Development officers. In addition, Blackwaterâ€™s special-forces veterans guard many of the Provincial Reconstruction Teamsâ€”or PRTsâ€”that build schools, clinics, police and fire stations and other structures that house essential Iraqi government services. Work on these vital â€œhearts and mindsâ€ projects has all but stopped across Iraq.
The State department has long insisted on using Blackwater and other private security firms so that its convoys and legations would not be controlled by the Defense department. …
At least eight Iraqis are reported dead after the Sunday shoot out and some press reports refer to the local casualties as â€œcivilians.â€
â€œInitial press accounts were inaccurate,â€ said Blackwater USA spokeswoman Anne Tyrell. â€œThe â€˜civiliansâ€™ 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.â€
â€œBlackwater professionals heroically defended American lives in a war zone on Sunday and Blackwater will cooperate with any inquiry into this matter.â€
Itâ€™s well known in Iraq that dead insurgents become â€œciviliansâ€ 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 Blackwaterâ€™s license, the democratically elected Iraq government may stall the forward progress created by the Gen. Petraeusâ€™ surge and change in counterinsurgency tactics.
Indeed, some contend that the actions of Iraqâ€™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 Baâ€™ath party and thus survived de-Baâ€™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. â€œInnocents dying [in the Sunday gun battle with Blackwater] is just a pretext,â€ 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. …
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 Blackwaterâ€™s low-level â€œtrigger pullers,â€ says the State department source, while Rep. Henry Waxmanâ€™s committee is expected to target senior executives at Blackwater and top Bush Administration officials. A perfect storm is set to roil Blackwater.
If Blackwater and other private contractors are shut out of Iraq, Democrats in Congress and Iranian intelligence operatives may have stumbled on a way to end the Iraq Warâ€”less than a week after Gen. Petraeus testified that the U.S. is turning the corner.
And sure enough, just as Miniter predicted, here comes the Associated Press with another headline, reading Feds target Blackwater in weapons probe:
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh, N.C., is handling the investigation with help from Pentagon and State Department auditors, who have concluded there is enough evidence to file charges, the officials told The Associated Press. …
In the United States, officials in Washington said the smuggling investigation grew from internal Pentagon and State Department inquiries into U.S. weapons that had gone missing in Iraq. It gained steam after Turkish authorities protested to the U.S. in July that they had seized American arms from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, rebels. …
The North Carolina investigation was first brought to light by State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard, who mentioned it, perhaps inadvertently, this week while denying he had improperly blocked fraud and corruption probes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Krongard was accused in a letter by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, of politically motivated malfeasance, including refusing to cooperate with an investigation into alleged weapons smuggling by a large, unidentified State Department contractor.