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British hostage release in Iraq raises questions about Iran

London — In a surprise to all concerned, Peter Moore, a British IT worker kidnapped in Baghdad more than two years ago was released by his captors on Wednesday.  The British Foreign Office as always said no deal was done ... but almost immediately  the leader of a radical Shiite group, an imam named Qais al-Khazali, was released from American custody in Iraq.

Khazali had been arrested in connection with an attack on an American base in the holy city of Kerbala three years ago in the Shi'ite south of Iraq. At the time, Khazali was believed to be under the command of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

No deal or coincidence?  You decide.  But here are some other strands to the story you may want to know:

The Guardian newspaper is reporting that Iran was behind the kidnapping of Moore. There is a mountain of evidence to show that Moore was held for part of his captivity in Iran. American General David Petraeus told the BBC this morning he was 90 percent certain Moore had spent part of his captivity in Iran.

I would say the general's admission of 90 percent certainty is tantamount to saying it's a fact. Certainly Moore's British bodyguards who were abducted with him were shortly afterwards murdered in Iran.

Finally, Iran, which has deep contacts in Iraq's Shiite community may well have had motive for doing this. Moore was working in Iraq's Finance Ministry at the time of his abduction.  He was installing an ultra-sophisticated system for tracking the billions of pounds of aid money that were flowing into the country and seemed to be disappearing.  It was believed a good deal of the funding was being diverted to Iran.

The main point underlying all this cloak and dagger stuff is this:  Iran, the U.S. and Britain seem to have been in contact via Baghdad and negotiated something successfully. 

I wonder if there any other issues on which the Islamic Republic and the West might be having discussions in secret in the Iraqi capital?