I think Bush’s speech this afternoon signaled a significant turning point. Things really seem to be heating up:
U.S. soldiers arrested members of an Iranian government delegation Tuesday at a hotel in Baghdad and took them to an unidentified location, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported.
Associated Press Television caught blindfolded men being escorted from a Baghdad hotel.
The Iranians, who work for Tehran’s power ministry, were in the capital at the invitation of Iraqi government officials to sign an electricity supply contract, the news agency said.
The number of people arrested was not immediately clear, though Associated Press Television showed U.S. soldiers escorting 10 blindfolded people — their hands bound in front of them — from the hotel into military vehicles and driving off.
The Iranian’s aren’t happy but this story will take a while to fully unfold:
A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy says the seven men who were arrested were part of a delegation from the Iranian Electricity Ministry.
He says they were guests of the Iraqi Government and had come to Baghdad to help rebuild power stations.
He says the Iranian embassy will be sending a formal letter of protest to the Iraqi Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The arrest of the Iranians came almost immediately after US President George W Bush said he had told commanders in Iraq to confront Iranians engaged in what he called “murderous activities” in Iraq.
I think we’ll be hearing more about what these men were really up to soon.
Some details are emerging but I wouldn’t necessarily take these initial reports at face value. This doesn’t tell us much anyway:
American forces said that a group of Iranians was detained after coalition forces searched them and their Iraqi escorts at a checkpoint, found unauthorized weapons in their vehicles and confiscated them.
The American statement did not mention the hotel, but it is near the checkpoint on the east bank of the Tigris where United States forces said the group was stopped and searched.
After the delegation proceeded to the Sheraton Ishtar hotel and was eating dinner in the ground floor restaurant, American solders arrested them, hotel employees said Wednesday. They said that six Iranians were led away blindfolded and handcuffed shortly after 10 p.m. Hotel officials said the delegation checked into the hotel on Monday bearing a letter of invitation from the Electricity Ministry.
I still think there’s more to this story than we’re hearing yet.
The Iranians have been released. It looks like, in addition to sending a message, we got what we wanted anyway:
The military said that after initially allowing the Iranians and Iraqis to move on, U.S. forces went to their hotel and confiscated a laptop computer, mobile telephones and Iranian and U.S. currency during a search of their rooms. They then took the group to a military base for questioning. Two of the Iranians had “diplomatic credentials,” the military said.
It will be interesting to see if any of the laptop or cell phone data gathered during all of this resurfaces later.