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The swap


DEBKAfile (which was bound to latch on to the story sooner or later) reveals a few more details of the behind-the-scenes negotiations for Bobby Levinson's apparent release from Iranian custody:

Last seen on the Iranian resort island of Kish, where he was said to be working on a film, Levinson has crossed from Iran into Iraqi Kurdistan, where American representatives awaited him.

The promise to release him was conveyed, according to our sources, by the head of Iran’s national security council, Ali Larijani, during a sudden visit to Baghdad on April 29, when he met secretly with the US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. The two officials discussed reciprocal US-Iranian gestures to pave the way for an agreed agenda at the international conference on Iraq’s security opening at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh May 3.

Sources in Tehran report that US forces in Iraq will counter Levinson’s release by setting free one or two of the five Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers they captured in Irbil last January. The conference, summoned to approve steps that promote Iraqi stability and development, will provide a platform for high-level exchanges among US, Iranian and Syrian delegates. US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who has already arrived at the Red Sea resort, is expecting to hold direct talks with Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

DEBKA isn't always the most reliable of sources, but everything here seems to square with what we already know from other accounts.

Since the State Department has already started down the slippery slope of swapping terrorists for hostages, why not swap another one of the Irbil Five for the release of Parnaz Azima?

Hey, in for a dime, in for a dollar.

UPDATE: Iran's PressTV, which first broke the news of Levinson's detention is now reporting that he "has returned to his country amid news black out."

UPDATE: Ooopsie!  Now PressTV is saying Levinson's release is "uncertain."

US officials have not confirmed the return of a former FBI agent that Washington claimed had gone missing in the Iranian island of Kish.

Iranian sources reported on Thursday that former FBI Agent, Robert Levinson, had returned to his country.

State Department spokesman Karl Duckworth said that the department was aware of unconfirmed accounts in the media that he had departed from Iran.

However, he stated that the US will continue to work with the Swiss Embassy in Iran to get information on Levinson's whereabouts.

FBI spokesman John Miller also revealed that the FBI is unable to confirm the reports.

Did we pop those champagne corks too soon—or did someone in Iran's foreign ministry get after PressTV for ruining its big post-Sharm el-Sheikh surprise? (The State Dpeartment briefing today also gave no hit that Levinson's made it out of Iran, but again they may not want to upstage an announcement from Secretary Rice.)


Guess it's not over till we see Bobby Levinson's plane touch down on the tarmac in Miami.

Don't forget to sign the Free Bobby! petition.

Posted by Rodger on May 3, 2007 at 04:57 AM | Permalink


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