TSR: "This is a rare public glimpse at the murky world of the covert conflict being waged here..."
July 09, 2009
Michael talks to Wolf Blitzer about the "covert conflict" and lays out the timeline.
WOLF BLITZER: In Iraq today, at least 35 people were killed in a double suicide bombing in the northern city of Tal Afar -- 65 others were wounded. Separately, another person was killed in a bombing, this one apparently targeting a police patrol in Kirkuk. And seven people were killed, more than 30 wounded, in a pair of bombings right in Baghdad.
All of this is happening amid important new developments that could have a major impact on the relationship between Washington and Tehran.
BLITZER: And joining us now from Baghdad, our correspondent Michael Ware.
Michael, some significant news potentially today. After, what, two years, the U.S. military is now releasing some Iranians that were arrested in Iraq. What's going on?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is truly an extraordinary story.
This is a rare public glimpse at the murky world of the covert conflict being waged here in battlefield Iraq between Iran and America. Now, these five Iranians who were detained two-and-a-half years ago and have been held by the Americans ever since, Tehran says that they are diplomats. From the beginning, the U.S. military has said, no, they are elite operatives from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps who were supporting Shia militias.
Now, this fits into a much broader picture about this secret war being fought essentially by the spies and covert ops. These Iranians were arrested in January 2007, five of them. Nine days later, an Iranian-backed Shia militia attempted to kidnap five American soldiers. Now, that went awry. And the soldiers were killed or executed.
A few months later, five British nationals were snatched right from within the bowels of the ministry of finance here in the capital, Baghdad. Now, those five British hostages have remained -- spent, celebrated or marked their second anniversary in captivity back in May.
Now, just recently, the Americans released two very senior Shia militia leaders backed by Iran. What happened next? The bodies of two of the five British hostages were given to the Brits. Now, with the release of these five Iranians, we wait to see what happens next in this covert war being fought here in the shadows in Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What is the official explanation the U.S. is giving for releasing these five Iranians?
WARE: It was a request from the Iraqi government, no more, no less.
However, I will tell you that, in a briefing with a senior U.S. official not so long ago, when I asked about the release of one of the key militia leaders, I was told to take my question up with the British.
WARE: You make of that what you will, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, this shadow war is obviously continuing.
Michael Ware in Baghdad, thanks very much.
WARE: Thanks, mate.