Many foreign contractors—possibly hundreds, and including Americans who work for the US Embassy—have been detained in Iraq in recent weeks, for periods ranging from a few hours to almost three weeks. Iraqi authorities are cracking down on these contractors in the wake of last month's American troop withdrawal in what the New York Times calls the first major example of the government "asserting its sovereignty." The detentions, which have taken place at the Baghdad airport and other checkpoints, have focused on visas, permits, and authorizations; after the troop withdrawal, the Iraqi government stopped issuing and renewing many of these documents.
No formal charges have been filed, but contractors with expired documents have been held while the issues are worked out. The government also imposed new visa limitations, so some contractors have been given 10 days to leave the country or be arrested. Industry officials say it's harassment, but Iraqi officials say they are only being cautious—foreign contractors are notoriously not trusted there—and applying their own rules. As for US officials, they blame the detentions on bureaucratic problems rather than Iraq flexing its muscles, and say no US citizens are currently being detained. Click for the full article.