Hmmm. The U.S. has released five Iranian “diplomats” who have been held in Iraq for the past several years. They were taken and held in Erbil at the height of the insurgency, on strong evidence that they were actually Revolutionary Guards operatives involved in the traffic in shaped charges, the extremely powerful late-generation roadside bombs that were riddling American convoys.
This is a particularly interesting move because the five were considered bargaining chips in the US-Iran negotiations. Their release was frequently mentioned by the Iranians as a possible quid pro quo for the release of Roxana Sebari. More recently, it was mentioned as a precondition for talks by several Iranians close to Ahmadinejad I interviewed in Tehran last month. It may be a sign that a breakthrough–or an Iranian concession–is imminent, or perhaps it’s part of a deal to release the British diplomats and western journalists being held by the Iranians. If the latter, it’s a waste of a perfectly good bargaining chip. The Iranian seizure of the British diplomats and a reporter from Newsweek is an outrage that should not be tolerated, much less appeased. If it’s the former, a precursor to talks, let’s hope the Obama Administration drives a hard bargain–clearly the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad regime is desperate for credibility after last month’s coup. The price of that credibility has to be nothing less than a full accounting, to the IAEA, of the history and present status of Iran’s attempts to weaponize the uranium it is now enriching.