While diplomats and service members working for the State Department are shielded by diplomatic immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law, the thousands of private contractors who will be working for the agency in have no such protections.
Contractors have lacked immunity from Iraqi law since 2009, when a new status of forces agreement excluded them.
However, with the pullout of the remaining 50,000 troops from Iraq this year, contractors say they now feel more vulnerable to danger, both from potentially corrupt Iraqi police and from anti-American groups.
“You have to cross a major Iraqi road and, should the [Iraqi police or Iraqi army] decide, they might begin detaining American personnel,” said one contractor, who asked for anonymity because his company has not authorized him to speak publicly.
It remains unclear whether a new agreement could include immunity, an idea which is highly unpopular in Iraq. Talks over allowing thousands of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq in 2012 collapsed in October after it became clear that Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki wouldn’t be able push immunity for troops through an Iraqi parliament vote.
Opposition to contractor immunity largely stemmed from a September 2007 incident, where 17 Iraqis died after a confrontation with Blackwater security contractors.
However, some legal protections for contractors could still be gained through a diplomatic chapeau agreement, State officials said