US releases 5 Iranian officials suspected of helping militants

Posted Jul 12, 2009 by Stephanie Dearing
The United States released five Iranian officials yesterday. The men were greeted in Iran with flowers and a cheering crowd.
Anti Ahmadinejad rally in Iran
Mousavi supporters in Tehran, during the Iranian presidential election 2009 campaign
Shahram Sharif
The men had been arrested during the Iraq war in 2007 by the United States. Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, who was at the airport to greet the men said that their detention was "inhumane." While the United States sees the men as a security threat, and say the men were part of Iran's Quds Force and were involved in funding and fighting with Iraqi Shiite militias, Iran holds that the men were diplomats. The five men had been held in Irbil, Iraq by U.S. forces for the past two years. Iran officials are now threatening to take legal action against the United States. During the hero's welcome of the men in Iran, the members of one man's family is reported to have chanted "Death to America."
It has been reported that Iran will not let the detention of its officials stand in the way of the recent offer made July 11th to engage in talks with the United States. This announcement came after the G8 meeting in Italy, which devoted attention to the security threat posed by Iran. The G8 gave Iran until the next G8 meeting, to be held in September 2009, to engage in talks. While vague, the leaders threatened Iran with tougher sanctions if Iran did not "negotiate." Iran has been under sanctions since 1995, with additional sanctions imposed over the years. The West believes that Iran would like to develop its nuclear weapon capability. Israel has accused Iran of violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In the meanwhile, fresh protests cropped up in Tehran and other cities in Iran last Thursday, despite the banning of all gatherings in Iran. July 10th marked the tenth year of student unrest, and bold student protesters were reported to have chanted "Death to the dictator" in Tehran, defying government threats to "smash" protests. Reports out of Iran say protesters also set fire to garbage bins and broke the windows of a state-owned bank. In an attempt to prevent the protests, mobile phone text messaging services were cut off for at least three days last week in Iran.
The government warned Iranians that it would "not tolerate" any further protests. Earlier Sunday, the Chief of Iran's Joint Armed Forces, General Sayyed Hassan Firouzabadi, said "We are ready to sacrifice our lives, as we showed during the time of the Sacred Defense." General Firouzabadi was speaking about the continued defence of the recent presidential election in Iran ('Sacred Defense' is a reference to the Iran-Iraq war).