London, July 10 : A new agreement between the U.S. and Iraq is likely to take away the immunity enjoyed so far by American security contractors under Iraqi law.
According to The Independent, the Americans have agreed to lift the immunity hitherto enjoyed by 154,000 contractors, of whom 35,000 are private security men.
Till now, these contractors were a protected species under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that determines the future military relationship between the U.S. and Iraq.
"The Iraqi forces will follow them with vigour because they are not popular in Iraq," said Ahmed Chalabi, the veteran Iraqi politician, in an interview with The Independent.
Security personnel from Blackwater USA are accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians, including a mother and child, when they opened fire in the square in west Baghdad on 16 September last year.
The ending of immunity will have serious consequences for the 142,000 US troops in Iraq, who are highly reliant on the contractors.
Chalabi said the loss of immunity of American contractors would make U.S. intelligence operations more difficult because private companies have been used to maintain links with opponents of the Iranian regime based in Iraq, notably the Mojahedin-e Khalq.
Chalabi, who recently returned from Iran where he had talks with Iranian leaders, said: "The Iranians are implacably opposed to the deal. It consecrates America's massive presence here and threatens their security. They say this will be a 'non-security agreement' and 'not a security agreement' and they are happy for everybody to know it."
Iranian hostility would be serious for Iraq since Iran played a central role in mediating an end to fighting between the Mehdi Army Shia militia and the government earlier this year.
In an unexpected but important development, the negotiation of a US-Iraqi agreement, to replace the current UN mandate for US forces that is due to run out at the end of the year, is leading to a resurgence of Iraqi nationalism previously masked by Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict.