Yesterday I spoke with a British diplomat who has some peripheral involvement in the current Persian Gulf crisis and asked a fairly obvious question: What were the prospects for a resolution of the current dilemma through a prisoner exchange -- namely the 15 British sailors and marines seized by Tehran for the six Iranians held by U.S. forces in Iraq? The question drew a broad smile and this comment: "If everything develops as I hope it will, then about a week from today people may very well be speculating that this is what has happened. They might very well think that. Of course, government representatives would be at pains to convince them that there is no relationship between the releases, because it is the position of each of the governments involved that there can be no quid pro quo when it comes to hostages." That's about as close as a wiley diplomat would come to saying “yes.” Shortly after that discussion, I noticed that one of the captured Iranians was released in Baghdad, and the AP reported that an Iranian diplomat was permitted to see the five Iranians held in Arbil. Both sides were careful to say that none of this had anything whatsoever to do with the case of the detained British service personnel.
The British soldiers have been released now. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Iranians being held by American forces released in the next week or two.