Iran wants access to nationals seized by US in Iraqi Kurdistan

The New York Times reports April 5 that US officials are reviewing an informal request from Tehran for an envoy to visit five Iranians who were imprisoned after a US raid in northern Iraq in January. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV told at a news conference that the request is “being assessed at this time.”

The five Iranians imprisoned by the US were among six people detained in a Jan. 11 raid in Erbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdish region. US attack helicopters and armored vehicles backed up the soldiers in the raid, and 200 Kurdish fighters surrounded the US forces in a tense standoff before letting them leave with their prisoners. One of the detainees was released that day.

Iranian officials assert that the men are diplomats. Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s Kurdish foreign minister, told the Times that while the men are not officially diplomats, they had been acting as liaisons to Iraq.

Note that, like Scott Ritter before him, conspiracy guru Webster Tarpley was wrong in his prediction that the US would attack Iran on April 6. These guys remind us of the Jehova’s Witnesses.

See our last posts on Iran, Iraq and Kurdistan.

  1. Freed Iranian diplomat: tortured by US forces
    From AP, April 8:

    An Iranian diplomat freed two months after being abducted in Iraq accused the CIA of torturing him during his detention, state television reported yesterday . The United States immediately denied any involvement in the Iranian’s disappearance or release.

    Jalal Sharafi, who was freed on Tuesday, said the CIA questioned him about Iran’s relations with Iraq and assistance to various Iraqi groups, according to state television.

    “Once they heard my response that Iran merely has official relations with the Iraqi government and officials, they intensified tortures and tortured me through different methods days and nights,” he said.

    Sharafi’s comments came a day after 15 British sailors released by Iran said they had been subject to psychological pressure and coercion in captivity. The sailors were captured in the Persian Gulf on March 23 for allegedly entering Iranian waters and released Wednesday.

    At the time of his disappearance, Iran alleged Sharafi had been abducted by an Iraqi military unit commanded by American forces — a charge repeated by several Iraqi Shi’ite lawmakers. US authorities denied any role in his disappearance.

    “The United States had nothing to do with Mr. Sharafi’s detention and we welcome his return to Iran,” said Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman who was with President Bush in Texas yesterday .

    “The Iranian propaganda machine has been in overdrive since they paraded the British sailors around on TV. This is just the latest theatrics of a government trying to deflect attention away from its own unacceptable actions,” Johndroe added.

    A US intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the CIA vehemently denies any role in the capture or release of Sharafi.

    The official dismissed any claims of torture, saying “the CIA does not conduct or condone torture.”

    In the report yesterday read by a newscaster, Sharafi, second secretary at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, said he was kidnapped by agents of an Iraqi organization operating under CIA supervision and was badly tortured.

    State television said signs of torture were still visible on Sharafi, who is being treated at an Iranian hospital. Images of Sharafi were not shown.

    The Iranians may or may not be inventing the torture charge, but how can anyone say with a straight face “the CIA does not conduct or condone torture” at this late date?