On September 16, 2007, military contractors of the private security firm Blackwater opened fire on civilians in Yarmukh, a western Baghdad neighborhood. Nine civilians and one Iraqi policeman were killed, but not until eight years later were the men that were responsible for this wartime atrocity punished. Yesterday, a federal judge gave one contractor a sentence of life behind bars and three others were given 30-year prison terms. However, these contractors were not working for the federal government but instead the State Department. Although the magnitude of this case is larger than most U.S contractor incidents in the past, the federal government has rarely punished contractors in the past because it has claimed it does not have jurisdiction over them. Why all of a sudden, after eight years, has the government chose to sentence these four Blackwater contractors?
Handed down a day before Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to meet with the Iraqi Prime Minister, the convictions seemed to come at the perfect time for a smokescreen. The U.S government desperately wants the Iraqi government to believe that it has full control and responsibility over all of its forces in Iraq. By sentencing the four contractors, the U.S government is looking to strengthen its ties with the Iraqi government. President Obama has made it clear that the United States plans to fight the Islamic State, which has its largest presence is in Iraq. In order for the United States to be successful against the Islamic State, it has to ensure that is has the cooperation of the Iraqi government.