Bill Roggio says that five Iranian Qods operatives are being released from US detention, despite the misgivings of US intelligence. Roggio writes:
The US military recently released five Iranian Qods Force agents who had posed as diplomats and were detained in northern Iraq in late 2006. The Iranian agents were released to the Iraqi government, which is expected to promptly turn them back over to Iran. … “The five detainees are connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – Qods Force (IRGC-QF), an organization known for providing funds, weapons, improvised explosive device technology and training to extremist groups attempting to destabilize the Government of Iraq and attack Coalition forces,” noted Multinational Forces Iraq in press release announcing the arrest in mid-January 2007. …
US intelligence officials who directly deal with the Iranian threat in Iraq are dismayed by the release of the Qods Force agents, and say the release of more is in the pipeline.
“If you didn’t like the release of Laith and the Irbil Five, you’d better get used to it,” one official told The Long War Journal in disgust.
“We worked hard to catch these bastards, now we’re cutting them loose with little thought to the consequences of doing this.”
McClatchy says that the US military didn’t want to release the Qods operatives to Iran and suggested that the Iraqi government, for reasons of its own, decided to release the operatives once it became legally possible for them to do so.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. military turned over the five Iranians after Iraq issued arrest warrants for all third-country nationals in U.S. custody. … Kelly acknowledged misgivings about the release, and its impact on U.S. military personnel in Iraq. “That is a big concern of ours, is the safety of American forces. And we . . . have of course made our concerns known to the Iraqi government,” he said. Kelly and other U.S. officials said the release did not involve a quid pro quo with Iran and was not a part of the Obama administration’s attempts to engage that country’s leaders.
Rather than re-arrest the five, the Iraqi government granted them a meeting with Maliki and then reportedly turned them over to Iran’s embassy in Baghdad … Thursday’s developments were further evidence of the shifting relationship between Iraq and the United States, which just over a week ago withdrew its remaining combat troops from Iraqi cities. In carrying out the forces agreement — and in negotiating it last year — Maliki has acted with increasing assertiveness, and sometimes in ways not in line with U.S. interests.
The release of the Qods operatives came even as US intelligence reported more Iranian-backed terrorists coming into Iraq. Roggio writes:
The US and Iraqi military believe the Special Groups are preparing to re-initiate fighting as their leaders and operatives are beginning to filter back into Iraq from Iran. On Feb. 4, Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin, the deputy commander of Multinational Forces Iraq, said that Iran continues to arm, fund, and train the Special Groups, and that munitions traced back to Iran continue to be uncovered in Iraq. Recent intelligence and the finds of new Iranian caches “lead us to believe that Iranian support activity is still ongoing,” Austin warned.