Iraqis Forbidden To Work For Some Us

Iraqis Forbidden to work for Some US Contractors

The New York Times finally broke the story on Saturday of the US rebuilding efforts in Iraq being overly expensive because there is a failure to use experienced, reasonably priced Iraqi contractors. The situation is even worse than the Times suggested, however. It isn’t just that some contracts are going to high-priced American firms. Rather, in some instances Iraqis may be being positively discriminated against as “security risks.” So first they were supposed to dance in the streets at the US presence, and now they cannot even be trusted to rebuild their own country? Here is what an observer in Iraq says:

“[Some] American subcontractors here . . . who are working for . . . US

contractors . . . are prohibited from using Iraqi labor, contractors, or

equipment for some US military jobs. Iraqi nationals are considered a

security risk at some sites, so Indian and Sri Lankan laborers are brought

in from Kuwait. I don’t know how extensive this is, or what percentage of

military projects it applies to. Iraqi equipment (such as trucks and cranes)

are also considered a risk, so some companies are bring in equipment from

Kuwait (checked for bombs before entering Iraq – this simplifies the convoy

process and means the equipment does not need to be checked again after

arriving at the site) and elsewhere instead of using and paying Iraqi

companies and operators. I heard from a reliable source that the US military

has a list of nationalities prohibited from working on (some?) military

sites in Iraq, a list that now includes IRAQIS! Aside from the usual

suspects (Cubans, Vietnamese, Sudanese, etc), Chinese are also curiously

included. I understand why some foreign contracting companies are hesitant

to use Iraqi companies – many are fly-by-night operations, other simply

don’t know how to work with Westerners (often a lack of Western-style

accounting procedures and supervising, poor quality-control, inability to

provide quick quotes, etc). But, it also appears that institutional

hindrances are being put on reconstruction companies that might want to use

Iraqi labor. I have heard of competitive Iraqi bids rejected because they are

‘Iraqi,’ and hence a possible security risk. The British and American

militaries (I’ve heard, no one will confirm this for me) won’t use Iraqi

cooks or even let them near kitchens – fear of poisoning.

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