Another scoop for the Sun, which broke the story a few days ago about the White House having helped secure the release of the Iranian diplomat as part of a de facto prisoner swap for the sailors. Obviously, Eli Lake has a source on the inside who’s not happy with what Bush is doing here. And rightly so.
The quid pro quo that supposedly would never happen is not only happening, it’s escalating:
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…
Mr. Johndroe’s announcement marks a change of course from earlier statements made by Mr. Bush and Secretary of Defense Gates about the captured Iranians. Mr. Gates said yesterday, “I think there’s no inclination right now to let them go.” But he also said the plan for granting access to the prisoners was being negotiated…
The Irbil five, however, are also of high value to the American military, whose commanders in Iraq have opposed efforts to hand over the men, who they say are high-ranking members of Iran’s Quds Force, to the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government.
One concern about releasing the five Iranians or transferring them to Iraqi custody, according to one administration official, is that they are knowledgeable about American interrogation techniques. “They will share this knowledge with the next batch of Quds officers that come to Iraq,” the official, who requested anonymity, said.
Another concern is that the five Iranians in American custody are particularly dangerous. The administration official described them as “paymasters” and “terrorism coaches.”
Bush reminds us constantly that he doesn’t want to second guess his commanders in the field, that he’s only doing what they tell him in planning Iraq strategy (which isn’t true, per some generals’ opposition to the surge). It figures that he’d choose to ignore that generally sound principle when it comes to this.
Exit question: I’ve already called April 26th as my date in the Quds Pro Quo pool. Anyone want in on this action now?