Tuesday, September 4

Haleh Esfandiari, Iranis Arrested by US a Prisoner Exchange?

Is it coincidental that 8 Iranis held by our military in Iraq and US scholar Haleh Esfandiari were released yesterday? Iran and the US continue to rattle sabers in Cold War fashion.

From the BBC

A leading Iranian-American academic who was jailed for three months in Iran on spying charges has left the country.

Haleh Esfandiari's husband, Shaul Bakhash, told the Fars news agency that she had flown to Austria, and would later return to the US.

Ms Esfandiari works for a research institute in Washington.

Three other Iranian-Americans are being detained in Iran - academics Ali Shakeri and Kian Tajbaksh, and journalist Parnaz Azima.

The detentions came amid ongoing tension between the US and Iran.

Analysts say the Iranian authorities are highly suspicious of attempts by the Bush administration to promote democratic change in Iran.

Ms Esfandiari, 67, heads the Middle East programme at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Also from the BBC

The US military has admitted to what it called a "regrettable incident" after it arrested a group of eight Iranians in Baghdad.

The Iranians were held at a checkpoint and detained overnight. They were freed after the Iraqi government intervened.

Iran says the men were in the city at the invitation of Iraq's government, and that the US action was unjustified.

An aide to the top US commander in Iraq later said the US accepted that the Iranians were on official business.

Dr Saadi Othman, adviser to Gen David Petraeus, told BBC News that the incident had "nothing to do" with US President George W Bush's speech on Tuesday, in which he strongly criticised Iran for its alleged interference in Iraq.

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