The arrests started last month and kept growing. First it was 200, then 400, and now more than 600 Iraqis alleged to be members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party have been rounded up and accused of plotting to overthrow the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. One reason given for crackdown was odd, even by Iraqi standards. A “senior official in the Iraqi government” told The New York Times last week that they had received a tipoff from an unlikely source: intelligence documents found in Tripoli after the fall of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi indicated that the Saharan madman was helping Baathists and former military officers in Iraq to topple the government, the newspaper reported. Mahmoud Jibril, the former Libyan acting prime minister, allegedly passed on the intelligence tip to members of the Iraqi government while on a visit to Baghdad early last month.
Now a senior Iraqi official tells The Daily Beast that in fact there was no Libyan tipoff. “The Libyans didn’t pass any information. This report is absolutely baseless and untrue,” says the senior official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. “This was a plan by the security to arrest people they suspect. It’s a precaution to mobilize in the streets in anticipation of the American withdrawal.”