Tehran prepares to declare three detained Americans “Israeli spies”

On Aug. 5, the day of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s inauguration as president, Tehran officials said they could not confirm or deny Iran was holding three American journalists detained on July 31 while crossing from Iraq into Iran on the Kurdistan border. According to debkafile‘s Iranian sources, Tehran is preparing to claim the three captives, Jewish Americans, are Israeli spies, arousing fears in Washington and Tehran that the newly elected president plans to use his captives as a stick to humiliate the Obama administration and force an apology for the way it treated him.
Ahmadinejad is furious over the White House’s refusal to congratulate him on his reelection, although Washington did say that the US recognizes him as the president of Iran. He is plotting to use the three Americans to provoke a new crisis between his government and Washington. Mustafa Najr will therefore not be reappointed defense minister but interior minister instead so as to put a hardliner in charge of the American detainees.
To turn the screw, Tehran will spread a thick smoke screen over their fate after which they will be accused of having been assigned by Israeli and US intelligence to spy on Iran.
They are identified as Shane Bauer from California, who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation and New American Media, his partner Sarah Short, age 30 from California, who writes for “Matador”, and Joshua Steel Petel, age 27 from Oregon, who attended a New York yeshiva and writes for Jewish Week.
The Petel family have their origins in Iraq, and Joshuah told his friends he was going on a roots tour of places from which his family emigrated to the US.
Our Washington sources report that in discussions held over the past few days at the State Department and the National Security Council, an estimate was formed that the capture of the three American journalists by Iran is nothing like the case of the two American journalists Euyna Lee and Laura Ling, whose release Bill Clinton obtained on a mission to North Korea this week. No high-ranking American figure would have a chance of a welcome in Tehran such as the US former president received in Pyongyang. The Iranians will instead demand an exorbitant diplomatic price for the three Americans’ freedom, which the US will not want to pay.
If the affair is not handled carefully, US diplomatic sources warn, it has the potential of deteriorating very quickly into Obama’s “Irangate” – a repeat of the 1985 episode which bedeviled the Reagan administration for many months after the US and Israel were found sending a high-ranking delegation to Tehran with an offer of weapons in return for the release of US hostages abducted by the Hizballah in Lebanon.
Tehran may well involve Hizballah this time too, adding the Lebanese Shiite organization’s demands from Israel on top of its own.

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