The buzz around Baghdad and Washington is that Blackwater will be out of Iraq when its contract expires next May. The media sure seems excited to report the "news" - whose source is an anonymous State Department official - as a done deal.
Blackwater won't be fired or eased out, but is not "expected" to seek to renew its diplomatic security contract. So say today's reports.
This blogger isn't convinced. Most security experts on Iraq seem to agree that no other company can fill Blackwater's shoes in so short a time. And if the US Embassy can't function without the services that Blackwater provides, then there's reason to be skeptical about the reports.
For its part, Blackwater says it will do what the State Department wants it to do in terms of providing security in Iraq.
Right now the mood is dark in the shadow of September 16 incident at Nisoor Square in Baghdad. Top Iraqi officials are demanding a lot of cash, as so many usually do. They aren't kvetching about the US military's continued accidental killings of their civilian countrymen, not making a stink about reparations, not demanding American troops' expulsion, not demanding they be accountable under Iraqi law. The focus is on Blackwater. One must wonder why.
A lot can happen between now and May, 2008. My bet is that Blackwater stays - if it wants to.