The US military in Iraq says it intends to release nine Iranians being held there, including two detained on suspicion of helping Shia militias.
They were among five Iranians who Tehran insists are diplomats seized in the Kurdish city of Irbil in January.
What's the explanation for the sudden release for the Iranians who have been held for almost a year?
A US military spokesman said the individuals being released were of "no continuing value, nor do they pose a further threat to Iraqi security".
No further threat? What happened to these guys? How did they go from hardened terrorists to people who pose no threat to Iraqi security in just 9 months? Here's what the Multinational Forces - Iraq (meaning the US military) had to say about these detainees back in January:
"The five detainees are connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard - Qods Force (IRGC-QF), an organization known for providing funds, weapons, improvised explosive device technology and training to extremist groups attempting to destabilize the Government of Iraq and attack Coalition forces,"
And here's what we said about five other Iranians who were detained in Baghdad last December and may be part of the group that is about to be released:
Evidence the Iranians were helping the Sunni insurgency was also uncovered in the Baghdad raid. An intelligence official told the New York Sun that the Baghdad Qods Forces agents were "working with individuals affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunnah... We found plans for attacks, phone numbers affiliated with Sunni bad guys, a lot of things that filled in the blanks on what these guys are up to."
I've never bought the claim that the Iranians have been working with al Qaeda, but I think it's interesting to see how far our rhetoric has come in the last 9 months.
The fact that we would so casually release people who the right-wing blogosphere has been screaming are "killing our troops" presents something of a mystery. I think there are two possibilities here: 1) these Iranians weren't really doing the things we said they were, or 2) they've been exchanged as a reward for the Iranians staunching the flow of weapons into Iraq.
Either way, this is a good trend. Let's hope this is an indicator that the diplomacy option is bearing some fruit with Iran and that the rush to war can be derailed.
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