International Relations Government Security

The Even Darker Face of PMCs

Kitbash Private Military Contractors, courtesy of Shaun Wong/flickr

We have all heard about Blackwater and American, English and South-African modern-day “mercenaries” serving in Iraq, protecting targets in the Green Zone and in the Red Zone.
But few of us have heard of the thousands of private military contractors (PMCs) that come from developing countries, such as Uganda or Honduras.

According to some estimates, there are up to 10’000 Ugandans serving in Iraq as security guards.  Poorly paid (about $600 a month), they represent a cheap alternative to the $15’000 a month American guard. According to the former Ugandan state minister for labor, the Iraq war and the associated security business brings Uganda $90 million a year, more than their main export product- coffee. The business is beneficial for both, the sending state and the receiving country.

So Ugandans, among others, are serving as cheap security guards in Iraq – what’s the problem?

Government Security

Christians in the Middle East

Domes of St. Mark Church in Cairo, Egypt, courtesy of Bakar_88

The situation for Christians in the Middle East is difficult and increasingly precarious. From Morocco to Egypt and Iraq, they have come under pressure either from governments or from Islamic groups. The latest dramatic event happened this weekend, when a Christian church was attacked in Iraq by a group linked to al-Qaida, killing at least 50 people.

It’s worth reviewing the situation in some of the Middle Eastern states with sizable and historical Christian communities:


ISN Quiz: Iraq

Test your knowledge on Iraq, the topic of this week’s Special Report.



Iraq on Its Own

Lone US solider looks out over the Diyala River Valley in Iraq, photo: US Army/flickr
Lone US solider looks out over the Diyala River Valley in Iraq, photo: US Army/flickr

With US combat troop operations in Iraq at an end, less than 50,000 US service personnel remain in a country mired in political quagmire. This week the ISN looks toward Iraq’s future on its own in the wake of US occupation.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Philip McCrum about the deleterious security and economic impact of Iraq’s stalled political process.
  • A Podcast interview with Dr Kristian Ulrichsen on the challenges facing Iraq on its path to post-war reconstruction and recovery.
  • Security Watch articles covering the US troop presence in Iraq from invasion to withdrawal.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including US Congressional Research Service assessments of the March 2010 elections.
  • Primary Resources, like the full-text of US President Obama’s address to the nation on the end of combat operations in Iraq.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as ‘Ground Truth: Conditions, Contrasts, and Morale’, which provides the results of a survey of US troops in Iraq on the conditions and morale of service members in the war against terrorism.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the Washington, DC-based Iraq Foundation, working for democracy and human rights in Iraq and for a better international understanding of Iraq’s potential as a contributor to political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.
Security Foreign policy

How United Is the Arab Front?

Arab stone design, courtesy of Eusebius@Commons/flickr

The Arab community has always publicly supported its Muslim counterparts. As a result there is an alliance among these states in opposition to Israel and the occupation of Palestine. However, it appears that behind the facade of Arab unity lies a game of dirty politics, where each state acts in self-interest often in contrast to the projected image of unity and loyalty.

A recent article by The Times publicized Saudi Arabia’s green light to Israel to use its air space to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.  This is surprising as it pits Muslim states against each other openly and brings the reality of Arab loyalty into question.

In order to attack Iran’s nuclear sites, Israel has the choice of three routes. The northern route involves passing the Syrian-Turkish border. The central route goes over Jordan and Iraq, while the third southern route goes through Saudi Arabia and Iraq or Kuwait. So let’s assess where these Middle Eastern states stand.