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The big deal is those are jobs that SHOULD be flown by US pilots, but the US insurance industry will not insure N registered airplanes for landings in Iraq.
The former Soviet State companies call thenselves "self insured" to get the US contracts there. They are so well self insured (not) that they just leave hulls laying around all over the country, even if they just break down. I saw an IL-76 break-down and it was still sitting in the same spot when I left country.
Plenty of crashes by these folks, and not because they were shot down. Mostly equipment and pilot error.
And to answer your next question; I wouldn't have a problem flying a civilian contract in Iraq, but I wouldn't do it for peanuts.
Over a year ago gemini was supposedly the first civilian US airline to land in Iraq, just like they were the first to land in Bagram several month before that. These were AMC flights, and I assume that is where the insurance comes from. For the crews there was additional life insurance from the moment you crossed the border till the moment you left the country. This was to cover any problems if your own insurance didn't cover because you were in a war zone. Gemini even had a guy fired for asking about this coverage and wanting to see it in writing.
After Gemini played guinea pig, other airlines have started operating there as well.
GCD: the "peanuts" ARE the problem. You try to get any western crew to go there and you are bound to have a lot of questions (especially about (life) insurance and danger pay). I have seen that now with 3 different airlines. A lot of the former soviet union pilots operating these old aircraft for shady companies are glad to have a job, and asking questions will send them and on the street really fast. A union is something that does not exist there. A lot of these guys have flown in previous war zones and a bullet more in the sky doesn't make much of a difference.
Aircrew are replaceable. It's probably harder to find a replacement plane. It's the cost of doing business. Sad but true, even in the US.
I had a temporary gig a while back in an N-registered DA10, flying into Iraq.....
At first the insurance wouldn't let us RON anywhere in Iraq, just fly in and drop off. But eventually, and a bunch of extra cash later, they allowed us to keep it overnight inside Iraq when needed.....
I think the only place we still couldn't RON was Baghdad.....The details have gotten away from me, but that was the jist of it.