Does American hiker Sarah Shourd's release help Ahmadinejad?
American hiker Sarah Shourd's release was supposed to be a 'gift' from Ahmadinejad, who heads to the United Nations next week amid intense international pressure. But his actions riled conservatives in Iran.
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At that point, Iran’s judiciary – run by fellow conservatives often critical of Ahmadinejad, in Tehran’s myriad right-wing turf wars – delayed the release, stating that legal hurdles remained, even though analysts believe the regime had already intended to release her.Skip to next paragraph
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“The establishment had decided to release her anyway, [but] it’s yet another occasion of how single-minded Ahmadinejad is, that he always takes the show for himself, and that he doesn’t listen to anyone,” says Ms. Torfeh.
What will happen to Bauer, Fattal?
Torfeh says that it is likely that only one hostage was released because Iran is trying to maximize the bargaining value of each one. She suggests that Shourd’s release – at least in the eyes of some Iranian officials – may have been a quid pro quo for the return in July of Iranian nuclear scientist and apparent defector Shahram Amiri, who had settled in the US.
“That’s the way Iranian hostage-taking has always been,” says Torfeh. “So I would think [Iranian officials] have a couple more demands to make for the other two to be released…. I don’t know what their other demands might be, or who else or what else they might be asking for, but I’m sure [Bauer and Fattal] will only be released when we see some other gestures from the West, from America in fact.”
Mr. Dolatabadi said that the files for Bauer and Fattal had now been sent to a Revolutionary Court that “handles espionage cases.”
Iran undercuts its own claims of espionage
In a rare commentary, however, elements of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard used the Fars News Agency – with which it has close ties – to point out that Iran's release of Shourd has undercut its claims that she and her companions were working for US intelligence agencies.
“If they were spies – as the Intelligence Ministry has said – why should they receive clemency and escape Islamic justice?” the commentary asked in Farsi, as translated by the Associated Press. If Shourd were to “jump out” of prison, it said, there would be “no result except discrediting security and intelligence agencies as well as the judiciary.”
Also critical was Ahmad Tavakoli, a conservative senior member of parliament and foe of the president. He said a release would be a “bonus for Quran burners” in America that was undeserved.
“The release of an American woman in the context of intensifying sanctions and threats against Iran is not right,” said Mr. Tavakoli.
In that sense, Shourd’s release Tuesday may have been seen by the president as a partial victory over such opponents.
“I think in his mind he [won], to be the topic of the day and to be able to play both stories of, ‘We caught spies,’ and ‘We are kind,’ when in New York,” says an Iranian analyst in the United Kingdom who recently left the country and could not be named.
Iran’s supreme religious leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei “has told Ahmadinejad not to talk to the US, but he can’t stop the US from talking to him, right?” says the analyst.