Drudge is leading with the Daily Mail quoting Blair about the next 48 hours being “critical,” but there’s not much to it. Ahmadinejad had scheduled a press conference today at which he was expected to do his usual anti-western vaudeville, but either he cancelled it or it was cancelled for him to avoid escalating the situation while negotiations are happening. According to the semi-official narrative, the “breakthrough” that precipitated all this was Iran’s NSA appearing last night on Britain’s Channel 4 — coincidentally, the same network responsible for the upcoming drama-ganda about British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners — to say that the sailors wouldn’t be put on trial. He also recommended some sort of international arbitration to decide who’s in the right here, to which I’m sure Blair will reply that he can kindly get bent. Channel 4’s posted the video; click the image to watch.

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The interviewer is Jon Snow, by the way. You remember him.

Like I say, that’s the official narrative. The truth is that this is way, way too much of a coincidence not to be connected to the wrangling over the sailors. And that’s not the only maneuvering in terms of a prisoner swap. The AP is reporting that Iran’s “intensively” pursuing the release of the five Quds Force members captured by U.S. troops in Irbil, which is another dagger in the heart of that moronic Independent story insofar as it insisted that those five were small fry and that this is all about the two big fish we, um, didn’t actually kidnap. Anyway, Bush reiterated at today’s press conference that he doesn’t support any quid pro quos to get the sailors back; it’s unclear whether the diplomat released this morning was being held by Iraqi or American troops, so if Bush is secretly making deals, he’s at least got plausible deniability on that one. He won’t have deniability on the Irbil five. I trust he understands that.

Debka’s gone hog wild with this story, so if you’re into Independent-esque baseless conjecture, drink deep the intrigue. I leave you with a poll which I know will upset our three lefty readers as much as it does me, considering how gung ho they all are to fight the “real” war on terror in Afghanistan. Exit question: How do you reconcile the answers here?

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