The news that greeted friends of journalist Roxana Saberi this morning was better than they hoped: not only was the case against her suspended by Iranian judges, the Iranian government has decided to free her immediately. Iran watchers will be making one of two cases today: that the freeing suggests nothing at all about Iran's intentions toward the West; Iran's government wants to demonstrate to Europe (in particular) that it is capable of acting in good faith. The other is that Iranian-United States relations have come a long way since 1/20, and even in the wake of saber rattling, the presidency of Barack Obama has so flummoxed the Iranian leadership that they have no choice to vary their routine. I don't know which interpretation is correct, I would add, as a point of information, that Iran's government is not monolithic; that the bureaucracy and many judges consider themselves independent of the executive branch and the mullahs. So maybe the release is a mixture of Iranian justice at work, to the extent that it sometimes comports with Western standards, as well as at attempt at over-the-Gulf cosmetology. Seven journalists are still being held in Iranian prisons. Saberi, a friend of many Western governments and journalists throughout the region (Persian, Arab, European, American) may have been a special case.
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