The verdict in the more and more absurd case of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, the two American hikers, who were kidnapped by Iranian border patrol had inadvertently crossed the Kurdish-Iraqi Iranian border more than two years ago into Iran and who are sitting in Tehran’s Evin prison since then, is out. Both were sentenced to eight years in jail, three years for illegally crossing the border and five for “espionage” as the Iranian state TV reports today. Both charges are absurd, not only for Western observers.
But so was the whole enterprise. What Bauer, Fattal and Sarah Shourd, the third member of the group who had been released from jail in October last year for “humanitarian reasons”, were actually looking for beyond the scenic Ahmed Awa waterfalls has unfortunately never been figured out. The border is located not more than two miles northeast to the waterfall. So, why did they leave the lovely valley with its lush vegetation and started to climb the steep and barren mountain whose crest represents the border to Iran? They should have known that the areas offside common routes are still infested with land mines since the Iraq Iran war of the 1980s. There are no tracks to follow, no water sources. Rather barbed wire and even former military barracks. Locals have reported that the three hikers who had attracted some attention had questioned the pretended intention of hiking. Nobody would hike in these mountains.
The most valuable information about the American hikers so far had been provided by WikiLeaks in its Iraq War Logs. Apparently, they had been under close surveillance by American officials. The leaked classified document not only describes what actually had happened the very day but, what is even more important, provides an assessment of the whole enterprise.
“S2 ASSESSMENT: The lack of coordination on the part of these hikers, particularly after being forewarned, indicates an intent to agitate and create publicity regarding international policies on Iran. The leadership in Iran benefits as it focuses the Iranian population on a perceived external threat rather than internal dissension. Kurdish leaders remain concerned about international perceptions regarding security as they seek to increase investment in the KRG. Expect KRG leadership to intervene to return the 3 individuals and the Iranian government to accuse them of being spies. Additionally, KRG leadership may impose additional restrictions on private activities near the Iranian border.” (Emphasis added.)
The hikers, who have been characterized even by their fellows as activists and agitators, have paid a high price for their adventure so far. While it is hoped that they too will be released on bail very soon, that is not even likely. As has been exercised before, Iran may want to keep them as pledge and lever in the coming negotiations with the West.
Last modification August 20, 2011.