TEHRAN PREPARES TO DECLARE THREE DETAINED AMERICANS "ISRAELI SPIES"
August 13, 2009 (1506 GMT -- 0806 PDT -- 1936 Tehran time) (A less detailed version of this report was distributed in the Aug. 14 Debka "newsletter" and datelined Aug. 6; Google News dates this piece "Aug. 6, 2009")
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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S.
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 U.S. former president received in Pyongyang. The Iranians will instead demand an exorbitant diplomatic price for the three Americans' freedom, which the U.S. will not want to pay.
If the affair is not handled carefully, U.S. 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 U.S. and Israel were found sending a high-ranking delegation to Tehran with an offer of weapons in return for the release of U.S. hostages abducted by the Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Tehran may well involve Hezbollah this time too, adding the Lebanese Shiite organization's demands from Israel on top of its own.
HOSTAGE TAKING -- PART TWO
By Alan Caruba
Canada Free Press
August 12, 2009
According to the August 6 DEBKAfile, the three American hostages that Iran is now holding are all likely to be declared “Israeli spies” and put on trial as such. That’s a hanging offense.
Frankly, my first thought was this: How STUPID do you have to be (a) American, (b) Jewish, and (c) hiking along an unidentified area close to the border or possibly in Iran?
My second thought was: Since all three have writing credits with legitimate publications, might they, like the two Chinese-American girls, also be considered “journalists”? And, if so, is there a private plane warming up to send former President Clinton to do some official or unofficial groveling on behalf of the greatest superpower in the world?
That’s not going to happen.
The three hostages are Shane Bauer from California who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, and New American Media, all liberal to the core. I suspect young Bauer will return, if he is not hung, a conservative.
His partner, Sarah Short, also from California, writes for Matador, whatever that is, and Joshua Steel Petel, from Oregon, a former yeshiva student, writes for Jewish Week. Oy!
They range in age from 27 to 30. How does one reach the age of 30 and not know that Iran has been hostile to the United States and Israel since its Islamist Revolution in 1979?
How does one conclude that a hike along Iran’s border does not constitute a distinct threat? Petel’s family had its origins in Iraq and had emigrated to the United States. Did no one tell him that leaving Iraq was a very good idea for a Jew and that returning there was a very bad one?
Obama, like all liberals, has never met a dictator he did not like, but Mamoud Ahmadinejad may prove a problem. For one thing, he’s miffed that Obama did not send him a note of congratulations after his “election” victory. You know, the one that brought Iranians out in the streets of Tehran to protest it?
Mamoud must have fell to his knees, faced Mecca, and thanked Allah for providing him three of the most stupid Americans, all Jews, as a means to jerk Obama around. But does he know that Obama doesn’t like Israelis and/or Jews? Just ask his pastor of twenty years, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
In the same way the taking of U.S. diplomats in 1979 put an end to President Jimmy Carter’s first and last term in office, these three dimwits may just provide the same exit for Obama unless he can somehow extricate them.
The question -- which will be shrouded in darkness -- will be the asking price. It’s the kind of answer that distorts foreign policy because Obama will be thinking about himself, not the hostages.
A former Prime Minister of England, Harold MacMillan, was once asked what he feared most and his answer was, “Events, old chap, events.”
The three hostages are now an event.
U.S. DOES NOT KNOW LOCATION OF AMERICANS IN IRAN: STATE DEPT.
August 12, 2009
WASHINGTON -- U.S. officials do not know the location of the Americans arrested after hiking into Iran from Iraq, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Wednesday.
"We do not know where they are," Crowley told reporters. "We have not been informed by the Iranian government on that."
Crowley said that U.S. officials have asked through the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, but "we have not yet received a response," he said.
The United States and Iran have no diplomatic ties.
Washington is demanding "in line with international agreements" that Iran "give us consular access as soon as possible," Crowley said.
Three U.S. hikers, identified in the U.S. media as Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Joshua Fattal, went missing on July 31 after setting out from Iraq's northern Kurdistan region, on the poorly marked border with Iran.
Iran on Tuesday officially notified Washington about the arrest through Swiss channels, which represent US interests in Iran.
Crowley rejected Iranian charges of "meddling" in Iranian domestic affairs after the controversial June 12 presidential election.
Iran hardliners have accused opposition supporters, who poured onto streets to protest President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election, of being backed and directed by Western powers, notably the United States and Britain.
"Obviously, Iran has just gone through an election," said Crowley. "It was Iran's election and clearly there was a result that even now . . . despite the inauguration of President Ahmadinejad, the people of Iran have questions about," he said.
AMERICAN HIKERS MOVED TO TEHRAN, PRE-TRIAL SUNDAY
By Clara Jeffrey
August 7, 2009 (1717 PST)
Breaking Friday Evening: ABC News's Martha Raddatz is reporting that *Mother Jones* contributor Shane Bauer, his girlfriend Sarah Shourd, and friend Josh Fattal -- who apparently strayed into Iran while hiking in the Kurdistan region of Iraq -- are being moved to Tehran. ABC characterizes this as a sign that the negotiations over the fate of the three Americans will drag on.
Yesterday, Mother Jones printed the account of a fourth American hiker, Shon Meckfessel, about how Shane and his friends came to be detained. "I hope that people understand my friends’ presence in the area for what it was: a simple and very regrettable mistake," he concludes.
Shane has a piece in the upcoming issue of Mother Jones on corruption among Iraqi contractors. In accordance with the wishes of the families of all three missing Americans, we plan to post the piece early next week.
Update: On Saturday, PressTV, an English-language news agency funded by the Iranian government, reported that a commission of the Majlis (Parliament) will meet to discuss the fate of the three Americans tomorrow. Since the U.S. has no formal diplomatic relations with Iran, the Swiss are acting as an intermediary. Things got odder on Saturday when Iraq (an age-old enemy of Iran) also pressed Tehran officials for details surrounding the hikers' arrest.
--Clara Jeffery is Co-Editor of Mother Jones. You can follow her on Twitter here. (twitter.com/ClaraJeffery)
DETAILS ON MOTHER JONES CONTRIBUTOR SHANE BAUER, MISSING IN KURDISTAN
By Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffrey
August 6, 2009 (11:36 PST)
On July 31, three Americans went missing while on a hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan. They are presumed to have been detained by Iranian authorities. One of them is Shane Bauer, a freelance journalist who has a piece on contractor corruption in Iraq in the forthcoming issue of Mother Jones. The piece had nothing to do with Iran, and Bauer was not on assignment for us when he went to Kurdistan. Below is a statement by Shon Meckfessel, who was traveling with Bauer, but was not with him at the time of his disappearance.
"I’m writing this statement to help people understand what happened to my three friends, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal, who went missing by the Iran/Iraq border. I have been close friends with Shane and Sarah for years, and recently met Josh, a longtime friend of Shane. Shane is a language student and freelance journalist; Sarah is an English teacher; and Josh arranges student exchange trips. All of us have done some writing about our travels, and all of us share a deep appreciation for Middle Eastern cultures.
"In late July the four of us decided to travel from Damascus, Syria, to Iraqi Kurdistan for a short vacation. Sarah had to return to work in a week. While going there might seem strange to Americans, the Kurdish territory is actually very beautiful and quite safe. Since the Kurds gained autonomy in 1992, no American has ever been harmed there. The city of Sulaimania is increasingly popular with tourists, and a friend of ours told us it was the most beautiful area he’d ever seen.
"We arrived in Sulaimania the night of July 29th and stayed at the Hotel Miwan. Walking around town the next day, we asked a number of people -- taxi drivers, hotel staff, and people on the street -- for good places to experience the mountainous terrain in the area. Every one of them told us to visit a place called Ahmed Awa. Not one of these people mentioned that Ahmed Awa was anywhere near the Iranian border. In fact, on the wall of our hotel there were three photos of tourists standing near the Ahmed Awa waterfall.
"Ahmed Awa seemed the clear choice for appreciating the stunning natural beauty around Sulaimania, far from any sort of risk. However, it may have been unclear to the people who encouraged us to visit Ahmed Awa that we intended to go hiking in the area, rather than simply visiting the waterfall.
"There is no Lonely Planet Iraqi Kurdistan, and Ahmed Awa was not on the map we’d printed out. My sense -- wrongly as it turns out -- was that Ahmed Awa lay northwest of Sulaimania, in the direction of Dokan Lake (and Dokan Resort), another scenic area we’d considered visiting during our trip through Kurdistan.
"On the evening of July 30th, Josh, Shane, and Sarah set out for Ahmed Awa with the plan to camp out. I stayed behind at our hotel because I was coming down with a cold, and wanted a night to recuperate. We agreed to meet up the next day near Ahmed Awa. I purchased an Iraqi SIM card for my cell phone to make sure we could find each other the next day (providing the area had a signal, which very luckily it did).
"I spoke with Shane twice that evening. I called him at around 8 p.m. and he told me they’d just been dropped off near a strip of restaurants in Ahmed Awa. A couple hours later he told me they had followed a trail up from the strip of restaurants to the waterfall, and were continuing on the same trail to camp in peace.
"On July 31st I woke up feeling better and decided to join my friends. At about 11:30 a.m. I called Shane. He told me the weather had been mild all night. That morning they had woken up early and resumed hiking along the same trail. Shane sounded very calm and content, happy to be in a beautiful environment, and made absolutely no mention of any risk whatsoever. I am absolutely certain that they had no knowledge of their proximity to the Iranian border or they would have never continued in that direction. Shane told me they were planning to turn around soon. He thought we could meet up near the waterfall. I sent Shane two text messages, one at 12:50 p.m. and one at 1:22 p.m., to which he did not respond. At 1:33 p.m. I received a call from Shane during which he told me that they were being taken into custody and that I should call the embassy. I hope that people understand my friends’ presence in the area for what it was: a simple and very regrettable mistake." --Shon Meckfessel.
Bauer's story will be arriving in subscribers' homes next week. We will release it online soon.
UPDATE: On Friday evening it was reported that the three Americans were being moved to Tehran.
--Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery are the Co-Editors of Mother Jones. You can follow them on Twitter here and here.
PARENTS OF DETAINED AMERICANS IN IRAN SPEAK OUT
KAAL TV (ABC 6 NEWS)
August 12, 2009 (Austin, MN)
The parents of three hostages held in Iran are speaking out. Among them is a couple from northern Minnesota.
The parents of Minnesota native Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal, and Sarah Shourd say their children didn't mean to cross the border into Iran.
They released a statement yesterday.
They say they believe when the Iranian authorities speak to their children, they'll realize none of them had any intention of entering the country, and that they hope their children will soon be allowed to leave.
The three were arrested July 31st, after crossing the border of Iran on a hiking trip.
Shane Bauer's family lives in Pine City.
FAMILIES OF U.S. HIKERS DETAINED IN IRAN HOPE FOR SWIFT RETURN
Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia)
August 12, 2009
The families of three U.S. hikers arrested after entering Iran released a joint statement today saying they "continue to hope that this misunderstanding will be resolved as quickly as possible."
The first statement, hours after Washington was officially notified by Iran of the trio's detention, stressed that the hikers had indeed "strayed" across the border, during a vacation in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region.
"As loving parents, nothing causes us more heartache than not knowing how our children are," said the families of Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27.
"We believe that when the Iranian authorities speak to our children, they will realize that Shane, Sarah, and Josh had no intention of entering Iran and will allow them to leave the country and reunite with their families," the statement said.
The group has been widely reported to have been arrested by Iranian authorities on July 31.
"Iran has obligations under the Vienna Convention and we demand consular access at the first opportunity," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters today.
A deputy governor for security in Iran's Kordestan province told the Fars news agency last week that the hikers had been arrested near the town of Marivan for illegal entry.
On Friday, a companion of the group said his friends had no idea they were so close to the Iranian border. Shon Meckfessel said they had gone to see a waterfall, a local attraction recommended by locals in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya.
"I hope that people understand my friends' presence in the area for what it was: a simple and very regrettable mistake," he said.
Freelance journalist Bauer had been living in Damascus, was studying Arabic and never reported from Iran, the families stressed in their statement. Shourd was living with Bauer in Damascus and teaching English, while environmentalist Fattal had been visiting Bauer and Shourd before their hiking trip.
All three are graduates of the University of California, Berkeley.
The family's statement was first published at motherjones.com, an independent U.S.-based news organisation, which today also posted Bauer's first article for the outlet.
The investigative piece -- on how millions of dollars in reconstruction funding in Iraq was given to Sunni sheikhs to "keep them and their followers from taking up arms against U.S. troops" -- was published in consultation with the families.
DETAINED HIKERS' FAMILIES MAKE STATEMENT
By Clara Jeffrey and Monika Bauerlein
August 11, 2009 (1112 PST)
Today, the families of three hikers who've been detained by Iran since July 31st -- including *Mother Jones* contributor Shane Bauer (whose piece we just posted today), Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal -- have made a statement:
“It is now twelve days since our children were detained in Iran, when they strayed across the border while on a brief hiking vacation in Iraqi Kurdistan. As loving parents, nothing causes us more heartache than not knowing how our children are, and not being able to talk to them and learn when we will hold them in our arms again. Shane, Sarah, and Josh are young travelers who share a great love of the world and a deep respect for different cultures, societies, and religions. We believe that when the Iranian authorities speak to our children, they will realize that Shane, Sarah, and Josh had no intention of entering Iran and will allow them to leave the country and reunite with their families. We continue to hope that this misunderstanding will be resolved as quickly as possible.
"Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, are graduates of the University of California, Berkeley.
"Bauer has been living in Damascus, Syria, since the Fall of 2008 and is a student of Arabic. He is a freelance journalist and photographer who has written from the Middle East. He has never reported from Iran.
"Shourd lives with Bauer in Damascus, where she teaches English and had been studying for the Graduate Record Examination in preparation for graduate school. She has written occasional travel pieces from the region.
"Fattal is an environmentalist who worked at the Aprovecho Research Center in Cottage Grove, Oregon, which teaches sustainable living skills. Fattal had a Teaching Fellowship with the International Honors Program’s “Health and Community” study abroad program in the spring semester of 2009. Fattal was visiting Bauer and Shourd in Damascus prior to their hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan.
We'll keep you posted as to the status of Shane, Sarah, and Josh. Please keep them in your thoughts.
--Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein are Co-Editors of Mother Jones. You can follow Clara on Twitter here and Monika here.