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Iraq flexes muscles as sectarian violence and political discord increase.
Over 100 international contractors have been detained by the Iraqi government over visa applications, weapons permits and other authorizations, said The New York Times.
The Times ran a front page story on how this is “one of the first major signs of the Iraqi government’s asserting its sovereignty after the American troop withdrawal last month.”
“We have to apply our own rules now,” said Latif Rashid, a senior adviser to Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president. The detentions have been confirmed by the American government, though it has not released an official figure.
Doug Brooks, the president of the International Stability Operations Association, which originally raised this issue in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was quoted by The Washington Post stating, “This is basically collateral damage from the infighting in the Iraqi government... The main reason seems to be bureaucratic incapacity.”
The Times reported that the Iraqi government stopped issuing or renewing weapons licenses and other documents after the withdrawal of troops, catching contractors with expired papers at checkpoints and the airport.
The detentions come at a time when Iraq is struck by sectarian violence and political discord, exacerbated by the withdrawal of American troops in December, as reported by the Guardian.
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Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s position was threatened on Jan. 13, as his Sunni deputy premier called upon him to step down. Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq said Iraq was turning into a dictatorship under al-Maliki, a Shiite, according to the Associated Press.
While the politicians traded barbs, Iraq was hit by more sectarian violence as car bombs in two cities claimed the lives of at least 11 people, mostly Shiites. The toll since just the beginning of the month rests at 150, according to the AP.
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Besides the political discord, there are also allegations of corruption in the Iraqi government, according to the Guardian. Reports suggest that Iraqi security forces were arresting and holding men on false charges, torturing them and bribing their families for their wellbeing and eventual release. If true, they show the government’s increasing lack of control over its own forces.