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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Goldwasser and Regev are not in Iran

A report in this morning's London Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Aswat claims that kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are being held in Iran (Hat Tip: Danny in Tokyo).
According to Asharq alawsat, the soldiers were moved last July in an operation directed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a short time after the two were kidnapped by Hizbullah in a cross border raid.

Recently, the paper reported, a deal involving Iran and Germany has been forming, according to which Germany would release an Iranian intelligence official detained over allegations of killing an Iranian expatriate in Berlin, and Iran, in return, would transfer the captured soldiers to Israel.
Israeli sources are discounting the report as are Goldwasser and Regev's families.
Goldwasser's wife, Karnit, told Israel Radio that she was loath to believe "another" newspaper report, and that the reservists' families put their faith in "official" sources only.

"We've heard reports like this all along... we don't know anything. We don't know what their condition is… Even the Red Cross hasn't been allowed to visit them," she told Israel Radio.

"[Hizbullah leader Hassan] Nasrallah has declared over and over that he's being supported and aided by [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahamdinejad," Goldwasser continued. "That's why I confronted [Ahmadinejad]."
YNet adds:
Ehud Goldwasser's mother, Mickey, called the report "a spin".

"We hear these kind of things all the time. There is no corroborating evidence to these reports… we hope its just psychological warfare," she said.

Mickey said that the reports could be part of an Iranian attempt to "retaliate" for the humiliation President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suffered at the UN General Assembly last week, after Ehud's wife Karnit lashed out at him.


Eyal Regev, Eldad's brother, told Ynet that the report was being looked into, adding that the state was committed to push on with efforts to free Eldad and Ehud, "regardless of whether they are being held by Hizbullah in Lebanon or by Iran."
According to al-Sharq, last week's announcement of the release by Germany of an Iranian is part of a complicated transaction to free Goldwasser and Regev:
A source at the headquarters of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told the newspaper that the planned release of an Iranian prisoner held In Germany could be related to a possible deal regarding the captives.

He claimed that as part of this German-Iranian deal, Germany would free Iranian intelligence officer Kazem Darabi, and in exchange the Israeli soldiers' remains would be handed over to Israel.
Darabi was to have been released in 2004 in exchange for information about Ron Arad as part of the Tannenbaum 'exchange' but the Iranians never came up with the information about Arad. YNet also notes that Mickey Goldwasser expressed justifiable concern that Darabi's release not be tied to the release of Daniel Sharon by Lebanon this past week:
She also expressed hope that Kazem's release was in no way related to the freeing of Israeli-German national Daniel Sharon from Lebanon Saturday. "I hope that such an important release was not carried out only in order to release a kid who has made a foolish mistake from jail."
Haaretz reports that al-Sharq says that neither Goldwasser nor Regev are still alive, and that the negotiations are over their bodies according to al-Sharq. Haaretz also notes that Israel denied a report last week in London-based al-Hayat that said that both Goldwasser and Regev are dead. None of this is really new.

I blogged an al-Manar report on the first day of the war that indicated that 'at least one' of the two was still alive. The implication, of course, is that the other one was dead. The IDF has already concluded based on its own investigation that both of them are likely dead, and I would give that a lot more credibility than I would give Iran. Before the IDF report came out, I also said that, unfortunately, I do not believe they are alive.

There is one new item in all this and that's this sentence from the JPost's report:
[Karnit] Goldwasser also confirmed that negotiations led by a mediator from the UN have been going on continually. She refused to divulge the level or stage these negotiations have so far achieved.
That's also not surprising.

Bottom line: There's no truth to this story. I'm inclined to concur with Danny's assessment in an email to me that the story was planted by Iran (possibly by the Rafsanjani faction) and that Iran is playing for time to stave off what - especially after the attack on Syria and this morning's New York Times report - is almost inevitably going to be an attack against Iran's nuclear reactors. The thinking may well be that if they can make Israel believe that they are holding something or someone Israel wants they may be able to delay an attack long enough to complete the construction of nuclear weapons. If they can shut up Ahmadinejad for long enough.


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