Good Reads: Iran, Israel, and Qatar. What's their game?
Israel denies killing an Iranian weapons scientist. Iran detains and releases a Taliban insider. Qatar foments an Arab Spring. Why is everyone suddenly acting like bit players in a Graham Greene novel?
It’s a question very much on people’s minds these days: What is Iran’s game plan?Skip to next paragraph
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The country is allegedly still engaged in a nuclear weapons program, although it denies this. It continues to prop up allies and militant groups throughout the Middle East, including Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. And they’ve been detaining and releasing a number of top Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban leaders since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.
What possible use might Iran have for a bunch of elderly Islamists under house arrest?
Leah Farrall, writing for The Atlantic magazine, met one of the Taliban’s foremost advisers, the Egyptian-born journalist Mustafa Hamid, recently at a cafe in Alexandria, Egypt. They discussed his years in detention and his own theories about Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East. Mr. Hamid says he is at a loss to understand why Iran held onto him so long, but he believes the Islamic Republic had more than compassion on its mind when they released him two months ago.
"Iran only kept those who it could use as playing cards," Hamid says. "Because the Americans say I am important, they thought that they had caught a big fish." Hamid believes that those who remain in Iran – which reportedly include senior al Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad leaders as well as a number of other militants of significant stature or experience – are being held as bargaining chips. "The others who remain, they are being treated as playing cards," he said. "Iran wants to use them to make a deal, and so I don't feel that they are going to release them for this reason."
If, as Hamid believes, Iran is playing a game in the Middle East, it is not the only nation to do so.
A number of strange accidents
Scott Peterson, in yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor, writes a well-researched piece tracing a string of assassinations against Iran’s nuclear scientists and weapons experts. The latest to die, on Saturday at a mysterious blast at a weapons depot outside of Tehran, was Maj. Gen. Hassan Moghaddam, the proclaimed “father” of Iran’s missile program.
Iran claims that the blast was an accident. Regional experts note that Iran has had a number of strange accidents lately, including a computer virus that accidentally shut down 1,000 of its 8,000 uranium-enrichment centrifuges; and two nuclear scientists who accidently drove past motorcycles who accidently placed “sticky bombs” to the side of their cars. One of those scientists accidentally died.