In-depth / The Mysterious Deal Between Washington and Tehran

Speculation shrouds a possible deal that saw British computer consultant Peter Moore freed after 31 months in Iraqi captivity.

Mystery and speculation continue to surround the release of British computer consultant Peter Moore from captivity in Iraq. The 36-year-old was taken hostage with four British bodyguards assigned to him while he was working as an IT consultant in Baghdad for a U.S. firm. He arrived in the U.K. on Friday night.

During his 31-month captivity, three of the security guards were killed, and it is widely believed that the fourth, Alan McMenemy, was also murdered.

Attempts to piece together where Moore was held after being abducted in May 2007 are continuing. The former U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has suggested that Moore was held in Iran, confirming that U.S. intelligence indicates that at least part of his detention was spent there.

Though the U.K. has vehemently denied that Moore's release was part of a prisoner exchange, media outlets report that in fact there was such a deal between the British, the Americans and the Iranians.

Even Peter's father, Grahm Moore, confirmed a deal when he said that though he was not permitted to talk about it earlier, he had received word of secret talks between the kidnappers and the Americans over the release of the Shia cleric, Qais al-Khazali.

Al-Khazali has been key to Moore's release ever since the Briton was kidnapped. The 26-year-old was a rising star in the Righteous League, a band of Iranian-backed Shia militants, a nascent Islamic group, when he was captured by the British Army in Iraq in March 2007, and later handed over to the U.S., where he was held up until his release several days ago. The group believed to have been led by Al-Khazali is suspected of being involved in the murder of five American soldiers.

Despite the proximity between the release of both captives, and despite repeated reports of a prisoner exchange deal, British authorities have denied such a deal, as did the Iraqi government. The U.S. has declined to comment in any official capacity.

The British Foreign Office also denied the allegation, reported by the Guardian, that Moore was held in Iran.

Moore was brought to Iraq to assist the Iraqi treasury in upgrading their computerized systems, in efforts to increase oversight over the transfer of funds, especially foreign aid. Some analysts believe that some $18 billion in aid money has been stolen in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003. It is not yet clear whether the decision to capture Moore was motivated by his extensive knowledge in computers, or whether it was an Iranian response to the arrest of senior Revolutionary Guards officials in northern Iraq by U.S. intelligence. It is more plausible that it is the second reason, because since his abduction, all the computerized systems that he brought to the Iraqi treasury have been replaced.