U.S. to Continue Holding Iranian Agents

((((( LatWp LatWp)- After intense internal debate, the Bush administration has decided to hold on to five Iranian Revolutionary Guard intelligence agents captured in Iraq, overruling a State Department recommendation to release them, according to U.S. officials.

At a meeting of the president's foreign policy team Tuesday, the administration decided the five Iranians will remain in custody and go through a periodic six-month review used for the 250 other foreign detainees held in Iraq, U.S. officials said. The next review is not expected until July, officials say.

The five, seized in a Jan. 11 raid by U.S. forces in the Kurdish city of Irbil , are at the center of increasing tensions between Washington and Tehran. The decision is certain to further irritate Tehran, which has ratcheted up pressure on the United States and on its allies and even its friends in the Iraqi government to win freedom for the Irbil five.

The decision came as Iraq's government spokesman, on a White House visit Friday, urged better ties. ``We feel that the improvement and the better relations between the United States and Iran could minimize --could make the (Iranian) interference less,'' Ali Dabbagh said in a news briefing with White House spokeswoman Dana Perino .

Differences over the five Iranians reflect an emerging divide on how to deal with Iran. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went into the meeting Tuesday advising that the men be freed because they are no longer useful, but after a review of options she went along with the consensus, U.S. officials say. Vice President Dick Cheney's office made the firmest case for keeping them. Their capture signals that Iran's actions are monitored and that Iranian operatives face seizure.

The administration has expressed concern about Tehran's role in Iraq. Iran has long aided Shiite militias but more recently has also armed some Sunni militias, officials say. Officials also allege that Iran has provided roadside explosives that have killed U.S. troops. But Washington needs Iran's cooperation to stabilize Iraq.

Since the capture, Iran has threatened not to attend a key meeting in Egypt next month of Iraq's neighbors--as well as the United States and international groups involved in Iraq--that Washington hopes will foster cooperation on Iraq. Without Iran, which exerts great influence in Iraq, the meeting could have only a marginal impact, according to Iraqi officials and Middle East experts.

When the Iraqi government did not obtain release of the five detainees, Iran refused to allow a plane carrying Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki to fly over Iran en route to Japan last week. Iran has also been pressing the detainees' case at the United Nations.

Some U.S. officials now say the seizure of 15 British sailors last month by the Revolutionary Guard may have been part of an effort to pressure Washington through Britain, its close ally and the second-largest troop contributor in Iraq. One reason Washington does not want to free the Iranians is to avoid the appearance of a deal to win the 15 Britons freedom last week, U.S. officials acknowledged.

The January raid on Iran's liaison office in Irbil was the second by U.S. troops. In December, U.S. troops in Baghdad nabbed Brig. Gen. Mohsen Chirazi , the No. 3 official in the Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force, and Col. Abu Amad Davari . They were soon released under Iraqi government pressure.

In January, the United States again targeted two high-ranking Iranians, including Gen. Minojahar Frouzanda , the Revolutionary Guard intelligence chief, and Mohammed Jafari , deputy head of Iran's National Security Council, U.S. officials say. They eluded capture.

The United States is invoking Iraqi law as well as U.N. Security Council resolutions 1546, 1637 and 1723 authorizing the U.S.-led coalition operating in Iraq as grounds to detain the Iranians. The U.N. resolutions allow the multinational force to take steps to protect itself .

The Irbil five are members of the elite Quds Force, an arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps charged with Iran's clandestine foreign operations. The Quds Force has ties to the Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant groups as well as to Iraqi political movements that the United States has supported.

The administration's decision comes at an awkward time. Washington is about to send a fourth message to Iran asking for information on the whereabouts of former FBI agent Robert A. Levinson, who has been missing since he flew to Iran's Kish Island five weeks ago. The Financial Times and Reuters reported Friday that Levinson may have met on Kish Island with Daoud Salahuddin , a convert to Islam once known as David Belfield who is still wanted by the FBI for the 1980 murder in Bethesda of Iranian dissident Ali Tabatabai .

Georgia's external merchandise trade down 14.8% in 2020
Georgia's external merchandise trade down 14.8% in 2020
State subsidy to increase from 10 to 15 GEL per 50 kg of wheat flour in Georgia
State subsidy to increase from 10 to 15 GEL per 50 kg of wheat flour in Georgia
Georgia increases import of vehicles from Turkey
Georgia increases import of vehicles from Turkey
Loading Bars
Latest
Turkey reports 5,856 new COVID-19 cases, 2,424,328 in total
After first phone call, UK PM Johnson looks forward to working with Biden
UK records another 33,552 coronavirus cases, 1,348 deaths
WHO reports over 600,000 new daily cases of COVID-19
Azerbaijani, Turkish FMs discuss pirate attack on ship
Top Spanish general resigns over allegations of vaccination queue-jumping
Pirates hijack Turkish ship off coast of Guinea, one person killed
BMB Trade Group and Uzbek Saffron Research Center discuss saffron cultivation and processing
Trend TV shares video report from plundered during Armenian occupation Azerbaijani Zangilan
Belarus, Kazakhstan seek closer cooperation in exchange trade
Management of Azerbaijan's State Oil Company being improved - Decree
New staff of Azerbaijani SOCAR's Supervisory Board approved
Georgia's external merchandise trade down 14.8% in 2020
Turkey halts flights from Brazil due to new COVID-19 variant
Gas pressure in Iran's South Pars gas field projected to decrease
Iran's gas processing potential to increase
Portugal holds presidential election as COVID-19 cases spiral
Italy reports 488 coronavirus deaths and 13,331 new cases
Italy to rethink vaccine roll out if supply problems persist
US broadcaster, journalist Larry King dies aged 87
Russia signs deal with Turkey on vaccine production
Azerbaijani MoF issues footage from Kalbajar district's Gamishli village (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Manat exchange rate against dollar to remain unchanged - Standard & Poor's
Bahar Azadi gold coin price again falling in Iran
Azerbaijan considering issues of regional schools damaged during Karabakh War
Iranian Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on January 24
State subsidy to increase from 10 to 15 GEL per 50 kg of wheat flour in Georgia
Goods transit via Iran's Bileh Savar on rise
Tax authorities of Kyrgyzstan, Russia discuss launch of joint project
Japan's COVID-19 death toll exceeds 5,000 as total cases surpass 360,000
Indian gov't confirms outbreak of bird flu
Azerbaijani president expresses condolences to Ukranian counterpart
Bulgaria to ease some COVID-19 rules, restaurants closed for now
COVID-19 vaccine delays may slow wider Irish roll-out, says PM
Azerbaijan confirms 705 more COVID-19 recoveries
WHO office in Azerbaijan discusses project on preventing deaths from COVID-19 pandemic
Uzbek-Korean Uz-Kor Gas Chemical to buy spare parts for water purifier via tender
Georgia increases import of vehicles from Turkey
Geostat reveals volume of ferroalloys exported from Georgia to Turkey
Iran oil export never reached zero - Iran's Oil Minister
Azerbaijani expert talks impact of recycling old cars on traffic jams
Weekly review of highlights in Azerbaijani ICT sector
Uzbekistan’s Uzpromstroybank reveals plans for strategic dev’t in 2021
WHO chief thanks India, PM Modi for 'support to global Covid-19 response'
Yukselish competition organizes webinar presented by Azerbaijani president's assistant (PHOTO)
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for January 23
Azerbaijan shares footage from Ashaghy Maralyan village of Jabrayil district (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Turkmenistan taking measures to further increase volume of cotton production
Iran to increase Shiraz municipality budget
Azerbaijani oil prices fall
Georgia sees decrease in COVID-19 cases
Russia reports 20,921 coronavirus cases over day, record low since November 11
Iran-Iraq-Syria transit route would improve economy - Iran's Minister of Road
Azerbaijan and Turkey ink MoU to support SMEs (PHOTO)
Karabakh's geography allows developing various tourism products - Azerbaijan Tourism Board
Standard & Poor's upgrades Azerbaijan's credit rating outlook
Georgian import of medical products from Turkey down
Uzbekistan reveals COVID-19 data for January 23
Brazil President Bolsonaro thanks PM Modi for 'sanjeevni booti' against Covid with Hanuman pic
India's COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy shines in South Asia and beyond
Cooperation on North-South Corridor to be researched during Iran’s FMA visit to Azerbaijan
First Batch of COVID-19 Vaccines Arrive in Myanmar from India
Iranian currency rates for January 23
Joint dev't of Dostlug field to be commercially, technically attractive - Wood Mackenzie
Socio-economic situation in Armenia deteriorating - Azerbaijani MP
AstraZeneca to supply 31 million COVID-19 shots to EU in first quarter, a 60% cut
Iran and Cuba to increase production capacity of COVID-19 vaccine
Iran and Russia to increase transportation ties
One Year to Special Olympics World Winter Games Kazan 2022
Azerbaijan producing lubricants based on new components
Azerbaijan to soon start issuing lump-sum subsidies to orchard farmers
Cancelling SMS permits due to eased quarantine raises passenger traffic in Baku
Turkey halts flights from Brazil due to new COVID-19 variant
COVAX to purchase 40 mln doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine - WHO
Kazakhstan welcomes entry into force of Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
Fitch downgrades three Georgian Banks' support ratings
Tax authorities of Kyrgyzstan, Russia discuss launch of joint project
Chinese Mission to EU condemns European Parliament for interfering in Hong Kong affairs
Dev't of "green" energy potential in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region to attract investments
Denmark halts UAE flights for five days over COVID-19
UK business activity suffers steep slump in January amid fresh lockdown
Kazakhstan boosts exports volume to Canada amid COVID-19
Kenya Airways suspends flights to France, Netherlands due to COVID-19
Italy tells TikTok to block users after death of young girl
UK records another 40,261 coronavirus cases, 1,401 deaths
Canada's Trudeau presses Pfizer CEO on vaccine shortage, hints at travel crackdown
Swiss court finds Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz guilty of corruption
Georgian ski resorts remain closed
Kazakhstan increases volume of petroleum oil exported to Germany
Four men jailed for manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese migrants in UK
Reports that Azerbaijani Minister of Sports fell into coma - not true
Turkey registers more than 5 967 new coronavirus cases
Iran has increased oil export - Minister
UAE confirms it inked $23 billion deal to buy F-35 jets, drones from U.S.
Georgian President meets EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement
Azerbaijan discloses trade surplus with Romania
East Kazakhstan prolongs restrictions
Azerbaijani State Customs Committee exceeds forecast of budget receipts in 2020
‘Bibiheybat’ Ship Repair Yard completes overhaul of ‘Ramiz Hajiyev’ floating crane
Azerbaijan’s export of precious stones and natural pearls up
All news