The Iraqi government has vowed to fight a decision by a US court to dismiss charges of manslaughter against five Blackwater security guards.

The men were accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007. Eye witnesses gave evidence that the men opened fire, without provocation; indiscriminately spraying bullets into a crowd of civilians.

But the five accused maintain that they fired in self defence, when a convoy they were protecting came under attack.

A sixth man, Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty to killing one Iraqi and wounding another.

On Thursday, a US federal judge dismissed charges against the guards, citing a breach of their rights.

Saad al-Muttalibi, an adviser to the Iraqi council of ministers, said on Friday that without a guilty verdict, the bilateral relationship would come under "strain".

But how can this case now move to appeal? And what is the fallout of the ruling for US-Iraqi relations?

Inside Story, with presenter Sohail Rahman, discusses the matter with Alaa Makki, a member of the Iraqi parliament from the Iraqi Islamic Party, Sabah Al-Mokhtar, the president of the Arab Lawyers Association in the UK, and Todd Kent, an assistant professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University.

This episode of Inside Story aired from Sunday, January 3, 2010.

Source: Al Jazeera