Saturday, September 09, 2006

High- and Low-Tension Versions of a Border Incident

Iraqis say five Iraqi soldiers and a Humvee were captured by the Iranian side on Thursday in a clash near the small town of Mandali, 100 k NE of Baghdad. The rest of the story differs considerably depending on who you rely on. Azzaman on Saturday says the Iraqis were captured by the Iranians in an attempt to secure an exchange for two Iranians the Iraqis had taken earlier, having caught them red-handed smuggling arms and ammunition into Iraq. Reuters, which was the basis for most of the Azzaman story, doesn't mention the "exchange-for-arms-smugglers" part at all. There are other peculiarities in the Azzaman story, including this: In the middle of the prisoner narrative, the journalist says by the way, there has been a recent escalation in attacks on British forces in Basra, and the escalation is thought to be in connection with the Iranian refusal to stop their nuclear program. In contrast to the Azzaman Iran-Iraq high-tension approach to this, Reuters goes out of its way to note that Iraq-Iran relations are "warm", in contrast to the Saddam era; and to point out that there have been "arrests" like this from time to time in the past in connection with border-protection activities on both sides.

(Washington Post, relying on its own reporter, cites the police chief in Mandali with this explanation: The Iraqi-American patrol was responding to reports that there were large numbers of Iranians crossing into Iraq at that spot, and when the Iraqis got within 50 years of the border they were fired on. They returned fire and retreated, noticing later that they were minus six men and the vehicle. Nothing about arms-smuggling).


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