Reprinted by permission of Humanitarian Affairs Review, (Summer 2004).
The emergence of a global trade in hired military services, better known as the “privatised military industry,” is one of the most interesting developments in warfare over the last decade. The businesses in this industry, known as “privatised military firms” (PMFs), range from small consulting firms, comprised of retired generals, to transnational corporations that lease out wings of fighter jets or battalions of commandos.
These firms presently operate in over 50 countries. They have been the key actors in a number of conflicts, helping to win wars in Angola, Croatia, Ethiopia- Eritrea, and Sierra Leone. Even the US military has become one of the prime clients of the industry. From 1994-2002, the US Defense Department entered into over 3,000 contracts with US-based firms, estimated at a contract value of more than $300bn.
[Targeting Rouhani’s brother] is a very convenient way to cause pain to the family without necessarily provoking a crisis of office. The general message that the rest of the system is trying to send to Rouhani is not to get too far ahead of himself, to not allow his decisive election victory to give him illusions of greater autonomy and authority than his position actually has.
There's often a temptation to look for some kind of logic [in the arrests of students and dual nationals in Iran]... I think that this particular case [of Xiyue Wang] highlights the fact that the logic is simply the paranoia of the Islamic Republic—its judiciary and its security services in particular.
This is just a system [in Iran] that views individual foreigners who come to the country, particularly people with some language capabilities, as inherently suspect.