Hundreds of U.S. Contractors Detained in Iraq

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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.

The letter to Secretary Clinton, signed by Doug Brooks, president of the International Stability Operations Association, said that they wanted “to ensure that you [Clinton] are aware of the seriousness of this issue,” and “the impact it is having on our members’ ability to support the transition and government programs in Iraq and ask your assistance in working with the Government of Iraq to reach a prompt solution.” The “impact” is that it has brought much of the transition and reconstruction work to a standstill. Brooks told the Washington Post that it is becoming impossible for his members to move in Iraq. “It’s been a nightmare,” he told the Post.

“While private organizations are often able to resolve low-level disputes and irregularities, this issue is beyond our ability to resolve and we need the assistance of the Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Iraq,” Brooks wrote in his letter to Clinton. Specifically, Brooks pointed to the movement of private security guards protecting the hundreds of businesses and their employees who are regularly stopped and detained at checkpoints by Iraqi security personnel. When the armed guards can’t travel, the businesses are paralyzed as well.

An Iraqi businessman was quoted in the Post as saying, “We are, on one side, trying to promote Iraq to get foreign investors, but from the other side, the government is creating all kinds of difficulties…They just create rules overnight,” he said.

The harassment of the contractors is partly the result of the conflicts over incidents that occurred during the occupation where the Iraqi government believed that some of the security personnel were trigger-happy and were careless in firing where civilians congregated. One such incident in 2007 resulted in the deaths of 17 civilians, although all charges against the Blackwater personnel involved were eventually dismissed, mostly because of technicalities. The US military determined that the guards opened fire “without provocation” and used “excessive force.

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  • Gunner57

    "our friends in the region".

    What friends?

  • Brujo Blanco

    Is the State Department going to do anything? I have worked overseas in an official capacity and the State Department runs hot and cold on such issues.

  • BLJ

    Arabs are ingrates. Always have been, always will be. If the contractors are counting on help coming from Comrade O or Hillary they are s.o.l.

  • tanstaafl

    Before we came, it was a cesspool. Nothing has changed. Why is any American with an IQ bigger than their shoe size still in Iraq?

    • ZORRO

      120K

  • mrbean

    Did you expect anything else but chaos in foreign affairs from having a clandestine Muslim Alinskylite Malotto in the oval office and a post menopausal anti semite Alinskylite hag as Secretary of State?

    • winoceros

      How dare you.

      It's mulatto. :)

      • mrbean

        Okay dat dude wit dah africoon fawdder un dah white wigger mammy/

        • winoceros

          Oh my. Didn't think we had to go there….

  • jacob

    Are said contractors expecting any action from the most useless US govmt.
    dependency ARABISTS, same dependency whose clerks at its consulates
    in Isarel are ARABS ????

    Besides, knowing the turf, would it be due to "BACKSHEESH" in action ????

    Because what surely looks like bottom line, is that what we ended up doing,
    was replacing Saddam Hussein with MALIKI…..

  • winoceros

    The US must keep Sunnis in power if they're not going to turn the whole thing into glass. It's the only counterbalance on Iran we'd have in the immediate area.

  • Dispozadaburka

    This chaos is exactly what the State Department and Obama want.
    Muslim Day of Prayer on the mall "for the soul of America" wasn't a act of peace.
    It was a sign of surrender. 9/2009
    That's why they have turned against all of our allies.
    They want the muslim brotherhood to rule, everywhere.
    New World Order needs a New World Religion.
    Smoke and mirrors, the devil is in the details…

  • ASG

    Funny how as soon as we left Viet Nam, basicly the same thing happened. History has tendencies to repeat itself, which is exactly why Obama's push to Socialism will end the same way it always does.

    I wonder if Ron Paul is paying attention???? (crickets)

  • Iron Yank

    Obama could care less if these Americans rot in Iraqi detention centers, after all these are just greedy capitalists right? If anyone had a brain they would get out of this *hit stain of a country while they still can with there head attached. Then lets send the B-52's in and fix things permanently.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    The “impact” is that it has brought much of the transition and reconstruction work to a standstill.

    Good…reconstruction work in Iraq is actually counterproductive. We should be seeking to render our eternal enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan into poverty and not seeking to lift them up. Indeed, both fantasy based nation-building missions were founded on false PC multicultural myths and misconceptions about Islam, which inevitably preordained them into becoming the two biggest strategic blunders ever in American history. Apparently, some people at this point are still so blinded by false PC multiculturalism myths and misconceptions about Islam that they still can't recognize a disaster even when it is happening all around them. Amazing.

    President Obama’s precipitous withdrawal from Iraq may be politically popular at home, but it is turning into a disaster for the Iraqis.

    It's going to inevitably turn into a disaster no matter how long we stay and no matter how many more American lives we also sacrifice for nothing. The same thing will also inevitably happen in Afghanistan. Indeed, we have been in effect literally propping up our enemies since the very beginning. Like I said everything was based on false PC multicultural myths and misconceptions about Islam and when you build a foundation based on falsehoods and misconceptions, you have nothing but a gigantic fiasco. And that is exactly what we ended up with in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I know, I know….it's hard to believe that our Defense Department can be so incompetent, but that's what happens when you transform an organization that once was merit based into an organization that is now diversity based. Hence, the best and the brightest have long since retired from the military and only the loons are left minding the asylum. Apparently, a lot of people still haven't figured that out yet.

  • 9-11 Infidel

    Why anyone wants to help the Iranian tool Maliki is beyond stupid. Oh wait the bolsheviks have taken over the US government; which has allied itself with the jihadi women-beating swine. Time to leave the Iraqis to their own devices. Same for Karzai and his corrupto-ratz in A-Stan. Either get rid of the Bolskeviks in our government and develop a Sun Tzu strategy for the ME, or stop playing whack-a-mole and get the eff out.
    Oh wait, the foxes (Jihadis) are already in the hen house. Never mind.

  • tagalog

    Why is it true that “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”? We still have aircraft carriers in the region, don't we? We have enough airplanes to send them on flyovers to Baghdad, don't we? We can load them with bombs, rockets, and napalm, can't we? Are we afraid of something? I mean, the Iraq government is having trouble resisting al-Qaeda, aren't they? I bet if we took over the airport again and sent in a battalion or two of Marines, they'd reconsider their hardline stance, don't you think?

  • Alraunie

    Regression to the mean for both Iraq and America.

  • Indioviejo

    Our policy should be to encourage Iraq's breakup into the three natural states, Sunni, Kurdistan, and Shiite they were meant to be. After the separation they will still be at odds with everyone, but this is what Muslims do anyway. A big gain for us will be the formation of Kurdistan from parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and above all, Turkey. Let them follow their natural inclination.