It’s not like they knew he was an important figure. He’s merely the brother of the former commander, Mullah Dadullah, who spent the last several years waging jihad and sawing off heads on film for the entertainment of the faithful. Now this guy’s replaced him. If he looks familiar, that’s because he was the one handing out the diplomas at that mujahid suicide bomber graduation ceremony.

The punchline? It wasn’t even a straight-up trade. They got four other prisoners in exchange for the journalist.

Buoyed by this good news, Iraq’s foreign minister does the logical thing: he begs Bush to release some prisoners.

During his Washington visit Monday and Tuesday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari appealed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to free the five Iranians, who were arrested in the Kurdish city of Irbil in January, U.S. and Arab officials said.

Zebari told U.S. officials that the release would promote progress in the new U.S.-Iran dialogue on Iraq, which brought diplomats from the two nations together last month in Baghdad at their first public meeting in almost three decades. Iran has become pivotal to U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq, since Tehran now has greater influence in Iraq with a wider cross section of parties than any other country. It has also armed, funded and trained many of the militant groups.

Zebari warned that Tehran either might not attend a second session or not be cooperative unless the five Iranians are released, according to the sources.

They’ve been demanding the release of the Irbil Five, all of them dirty Quds Force members, for months now, with Condi applying most of the pressure within the administration. I’m surprised Bush has relented already; as it turns out from the WaPo piece, due to a bureaucratic snafu (of all things), they’ll be held until at least October. Count on them being sprung then, just in time for the American troop drawdown and resulting Iranian “surge.”

I might as well dump this here too, since it disgusts me enough that I doubt I could sustain a whole post about it. Another diplomatic “victory,” one to bear in mind as you watch this clip of the new Talib chieftain, Mansour Dadullah, talking about the mash notes he’s been getting from Osama. Click the image.

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