As the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, some U.S. contractors are pulling their employees out of the country or relocating them to a safer place. It is not readily known how many contractors there are currently working in Iraq. We know there are private companies such as Lockheed and Siemens that have contractors working there, generally in supporting or technology roles. There are still those working for private security firms, providing military support , but those numbers are not known. These people are the “shadow force,” providing para-military services to the government of Iraq.
ISIS Becomes a Major Threat
ISIS stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and is allegedly a splinter group of Al-Qaeda (although some news reports say Al-Qaeda is disavowing the group because of its brutality). It is difficult to follow the evolution of all the factions, but a simple explanation is that this group is comprised of Sunni extremists and allied with the remaining loyalist to Saddam Hussein, ousted 10 years ago. The unrest has been festering for some months, but it was thought that it could be contained by the Iraqi security forces. Six months ago, the insurgent forces took over the western province of Anbar. More recently, the insurgents took over the second largest city in Iraq, Mosul, and also the city which is the former home of Saddam Hussein, Tikrit. Recent updates have indicated Tikrit has been reclaimed from the group, although the insurgents have seized the now-defunct chemical weapons site near Tikrit.
One reason this insurgency has been somewhat successful has to do with the politics of the current prime minister of Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki is a Shi’ite who has been accused of not been inclusive either to the Sunni population or the Kurds in the northern part of the country. The unhappiness with his approach has helped foster some of the unrest.
The semi-autonomous Kurdish regime in the north has rallied to fight the insurgency, and has had some success in defeating the extremists. There have been reports of some of the Iraqi security forces abandoning the fight and leaving behind weapons, uniforms and even vehicles, which have been seized by the militants.
U.S. Sending in Military Advisers/Contractors
It was just announced that the United States is sending in 300 military advisers, in addition to the 275 person security force protecting the U.S. Embassy and personnel. These advisers will hopefully help the Iraqi security forces get back on track in defending their homeland and averting civil war. The possibility of airstrikes or the use of drones has also been discussed, but that strategy is on hold for the moment.
It seems that scores of private security contractors have been pouring into Iraq in the last few months to help support the Iraqi government fight these insurgents, but they are not contractors for the Department of Defense. The Iraqi government has signed long term contracts with these companies for ongoing defense services.
What Does This Mean for Us?
We all are aware of the huge oil reserves that exist in Iraq, and the world economy’s need for production and export of that oil. Other wars have been fought over this vast reserve, and instability or civil war or chaos could mean that production shuts down. This would spike the price of oil again, and could have far reaching global ramifications.
There are so many opinions flying around in the media services and in the political arenas that it will make your head spin. It seems to be a Hobson’s choice of not taking any action and letting the insurgents take over, or sending some manner of support and risk getting pulled into a never ending quagmire.
If the insurgency can be quelled and stability returned, this may open up the job market for more private contractors, both in quasi- military and support functions. It is interesting to note that many of the current contractors have signed long term (5 years or more) contracts to provide services to Iraq. This has long range implications for the workers and the companies.
Risk of Injury
There is an inherent danger for a private contractor working in a place like Iraq, or anywhere there is political instability. Whether from combat situations or other circumstances, there is always the possibility of incurring an injury. When this happens, it is important to know your rights for compensation for such injuries.
The Defense Base Act, which is an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, was enacted specifically to help protect these private contractors (See Here). It functions as a type of workers compensation for those who are injured overseas while working for a U.S. contractor. There has been a huge increase in these types of claims since the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, with some significant cases being decided. These cases regard who is covered and what activities are covered under the DBA. There are very specific rules and timelines for successfully prosecuting a claim under this Act, so you need to have an attorney who is experienced and dedicated in pursuing these claims.