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Hundreds of U.S. Contractors Detained in Iraq


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Front Page Magazine:

The government of Iraq has temporarily detained hundreds of private US contractors in recent weeks, mostly for paperwork violations related to weapons registrations and visas. The detentions — which can last from 24-96 hours or more — are the result of bureaucratic infighting between Iraqi government agencies who seek to control the movement of foreign contractors
The result is mass confusion. A trade group representing the contractors in Washington has written a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begging the State Department to intervene, but there is apparently little that can be done to solve the bureaucratic turf wars that have resulted in what one Iraqi businessman who works with the contractors called “a state of chaos.”

The detentions of American citizens are taking place against the backdrop of the strong re-emergence of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the nation’s continuing slide into sectarian conflict, and accusations of a power grab by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by his coalition partners who are being frozen out by the Shiite majority.

The New York Times reports that another reason for the detentions is that Iraq is “asserting its sovereignty” by developing its own set of rules to deal with the foreigners. Such may be the case, but the result of the crackdown has been what one blogger who follows the industry says is “controlled harassment.” Indeed, the Times reports that more than a hundred private contractors were detained at the Baghdad airport for a week wrestling with visa issues. Evidently, no 2011 visas have been renewed and no 2012 visas have been issued.

The embassy in Baghdad is overwhelmed. They issued a statement saying, in part, “The Embassy’s ability to respond to situations in which U.S. citizens are arrested or otherwise detained throughout Iraq is limited, including in and around Baghdad.” Last Thursday, 4 embassy employees were stopped and detained for two hours by Iraqi security forces.snip
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