It was a small step for a Bush administration which had reviled the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" to run roughshod over diplomatic niceties as well. Part of the payback may be the current crisis involving British seamen seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy in the disputed waters of the Gulf.
It's a context that for some reason has been ignored by most of the mainstream media.
First, in December, 2006, U.S. forces in two raids in Iraq detained several Iranians they claimed were suspected of planning attacks in Iraq. The Iranians immediately protested. But so surprisingly did a spokesman for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani , who said the President was working to obtain the Iranians' release. He claimed that they had been invited to Iraq by the President to help improve the situation. Two of the officials who had diplomatic immunity were subsequently freed; the others remained in American custody.
The Iranian foreign ministry said the arrests contravened international law and might have "unpleasant repercussions."
They were part of George W. Bush's new macho multi pronged offensive against Iran--the country, Bush now claimed, that was responsible for much of the continued mayhem in Iraq, not to mention the deaths of American troops.
Early in the morning of January 11th, 2007, the Americans struck again. U.S. troops swarmed out of assault helicopters to storm an Iranian office in Arbil in Northern Iraq. Using stun bombs, they first disarmed the guards, then seized five employees, reportedly members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, along with documents and computers.
The Iranian prisoners were again whisked away to be interrogated, U.S. officials explained, again for possible complicity in organizing insurgent attacks against Coalition and American troops.
Mohammad Ali Hosseini, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman again condemned the raid and said it was a violation of international law. A State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack claimed the detainees were not diplomats,
His position was refuted not just by the Iranians, but by the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, who stated--once again-that the Iranians had been working in Arbil with the o.k. of the Iraqi government. The building where they were working, he explained, was a liaison office, on its way to becoming a full consulate.
After raiding the office, the US forces reportedly headed for another area that houses foreigners. But Kurdish security forces surrounded the American vehicles to prevent them from carrying out further actions. The offices of the Kurdish prime minister and Kurdish president expressed their "disturbance and condemnation" at the pre-dawn operation and urged the US military to release employees arrested during the raid.
A bizarre situation to say the least: U.S. increasingly unpopular occupiers of a country that they illegally invaded to begin with, seize Iranians--in an operation first hidden from and then condemned by Iraqi leaders--and charge the Iranians, as the White House has put it, with "meddling" in Iraq's affairs.
Also, as many have pointed out, the Iranians are militant Shiites...yet most of the attacks against American troops are coming from Sunni insurgents--not the Shiite militias. The White House, however, has never seemed to get those distinctions straight.
As mentioned, after the first arrests last December, the Iranian Foreign Ministry warned there could be further consequences. According to a recent statement by Revolutionary Guard leaders in Iran, the seizure of the British sailors had been planned for several days.
You start trashing international conventions, everyone loses, including ultimately yourself and those who have made themselves your allies.