Iraq Arrests Still Shrouded in Mystery

Officials Can't Even Decide if Detainees Have Been Released or Not

On Wednesday night it was reported that 35 high ranking members of Iraq’s Interior Ministry were arrested, amid claims of enormous bribes, shadowy conspiracies, and even the possibility of a coup being plotted by the remnants of Iraq’s Ba’athist Party.

And here we sit, Sunday night, no closer to answers of any of the following questions: who was arrested? Why were they arrested? How many were there? What is their status now? The whole situation remains fogged in an impregnable shroud.

Iraq’s National Security Minister insists that contrary to the initial report, only 23 had arrest warrants against them, and of those only 19 were arrested, and still in custody. Iraq’s Interior Minister, who one would assume would have the most insight into arrests involving his ministry, insisted that the whole coup business was “a big lie,” that the arrests were politically motivated and without any evidence, and that everyone was already released as of Friday.

But that’s only the basic issue of the arrests. General Qasem Atta says the arrested (he counts 24 of them) were aiding terrorist activities. Someone close to Diyala’s provincial council says two of them were in league with al-Qaeda. And what of General Raqeef, the top Interior Ministry official reported held? The Interior Ministry claims he was one of the investigating officers, not the arrested ones. Surprising as the initial reports claimed the investigation was carried out by a counter-terrorism organization answerable to the Prime Minister’s office.

Prime Minister Maliki’s only comment on the incident has been to mock those speaking of coups as “illusionists.” Whatever the truth is behind the story, Iraq’s assorted ministries and other factions can’t seem to get the official story straight, and the rest of us can only scramble to keep up with the myriad of news-bites each one sees fit to release to us.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.