The New York Sun reports:
American and Iraqi officials are working out a plan to allow Iranian diplomats access to five Iranians captured in Iraq in January by American forces as a possible prelude to their release.
The plan dovetails with Secretary of State Rice’s announcement that she would be open to direct talks with the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, this month at a scheduled meeting in Baghdad of officials from Iraq and neighboring countries. It also follows the release of 15 British sailors captured by Iran last month, an arrangement both America and Britain have insisted did not yield concessions from the West.
Despite their assurances, contradictory details are emerging. Yesterday, a spokesman for the National Security Council, Gordon Johndroe, told reporters that America is negotiating a process with the Iraqi government that could lead to the release of the five Iranians, captured in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil by American forces on the morning of January 11, hours after President Bush announced a new Iraq strategy to combat the Iranian and Syrian networks in Iraq.
“Well, that’s an ongoing process,” Mr. Johndroe said. “We’re going to work that with the Iraqis to see what the next steps are, determining what course of justice should be carried out to deal with â€” to deal with, frankly, what we believe were activities harmful to innocent Iraqis, as well as coalition forces.”
Also, as The New York Sun reported yesterday, the White House took part in the decision this week to release the second secretary of the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, Jalal Sharafi, who was being held in an Iraqi- and American-administered facility. Mr. Sharafi arrived in Iran on Tuesday, the day before President Ahmadinejad said he would release the 15 British sailors. …
the five Iranians in American custody are particularly dangerous. The administration official described them as “paymasters” and “terrorism coaches.”
Watch for face-saving temporizing, then a transfer of the Irbil five to “Iraqi custody,” followed promptly by their release.
Is it any wonder that representatives of old-fashioned cultures in the Middle East which prize honor despise the governments of Western democracies?