The former official, who served in Iraq and was in a position to know about the issue but asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic, said that the three – who were turned over to the Iraqis last week and then to Iran – were in effect “hostages” taken to try to persuade Iran to reduce its support for anti-U.S. violence in Iraq.
The second official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because his account contradicted previous U.S. government statements, said the three were held as “potential leverage” against Iran, which provided financial and weapons support to anti-U.S. Iraqis after the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Both Iran and Iraq protested the arrests and prolonged detentions, which attracted worldwide attention. The Quds or Jerusalem Force is an elite unit in Iran’s military and intelligence establishment. Many of its officials and veterans serve in top Iranian government positions.