Swaps, swaps & more …swaps!
Last week, as Iranian officials allowed the mothers of three American hikers imprisoned in Tehran to visit them, Iraqi authorities released two Iranians who had been detained by American forces in Iraq in 2004 and 2007 to the Iranian embassy. “A U.S. military spokesman confirmed that the two, Ahmad Barazandeh and Ali Abdulmaliki, had been arrested by American forces in Iraq but had been transferred to Iraqi custody in June and October 2009 respectively,” the AFP reported.
“Barazandeh was captured in March of 2004 and Abdulmaliki was captured in Nov of 2007,” the spokesman said, according to the AFP. The release of the two Iranians to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad came as the mothers of Shane Bauer, 27, Josh Fattal 27, and Sarah Shourd, 31, were permitted to visit them in Tehran. The three University of California Berkeley graduates were hiking in northern Iraq in July when they were taken into Iranian custody. They have been held in Tehran’s Evin prison without charge for more than nine months. Cindy Hickey, the mother of Bauer, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” today that Bauer and Shourd are engaged, after Bauer proposed during one of the two daily meetings Shourd is allowed with her friends. The rest of the time she is held in solitary confinement.
Iran’s intelligence minister suggested on Sunday the three might be swapped for Iranians being held in the West, Iranian media reported. The U.S. says such a swap is out of the question, but it is willing to provide consular access and answer any concerns Iran has about Iranians in U.S. custody.It also denied any role in the release of the two Iranians in Iraq last week, saying that’s a matter between the Iraqi and Iranian governments. “They were held by the Iraqis,” State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said. “We are not holding any Iranian prisoners in Iraq.”Under the terms of an agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments, the U.S. military had to turn over all remaining prisoners in its custody to Iraq last year. Last year, the U.S. military turned over to Iraqi authorities an Iraqi Shiite insurgent, Qais al-Khazali, believed involved in a 2006 attack that killed five American GIs in Karbala. Hours after Iraqi authorities freed al-Khazali in December, a British computer consultant, Peter Moore, taken hostage at Iraq’s Finance Ministry in 2007, was released unharmed.
Earlier this month, France insisted there was no deal when Iran earlier this month released a French researcher, Clotilde Reiss, who had been arrested in the post-elections protests and held under modified house arrest at the French embassy in Tehran. Earlier this month, a French prosecutor ordered the release of Majid Kakavand, an Iranian engineer and businessman sought by the United States on arms export control violations. Shortly after Reiss’s return to France, a French court ordered the expulsion of Ali Vakili Rad, an Iranian serving a life prison sentence in France for the 1991 assassination of former Iranian prime minister Shahpour Bakhtiar.