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Detained hikers stir memories of Iran hostage crisis

Tehran could attempt to use the Americans as bargaining chips in its bid to build nuclear weapons.

Image

A general view of Dukan Resort, where three American hikers were last seen, near Sulaimaniyah, north east of Baghdad, Iraq. Iranian authorities have given no word on three Americans detained after reportedly wandering across the border of Iraq last week during a hike in the Iraqi Kurdish region.

Hadi Mizban/AP

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First, it was two American journalists jailed in North Korea in March and sentenced three months later to 12 years hard labor for crossing the border from China.

Now, three American tourists hiking near a popular waterfall in Iraq's Kurdish north have been detained by Iranian border guards after they wandered into Iran.

The two cases in close succession raise questions of whether the two countries will try to use the Americans as pawns in their standoffs with the international community over their nuclear programs.

Additionally, in the case of Iran, the detention of three Americans risks ratcheting up tensions by rekindling memories of the hostages taken at the US embassy in Tehran during the Iranian revolution 30 years ago.

Indeed, Iranian officials can be expected to weigh what image they want to convey both at home and abroad as they ponder how to deal with the three Americans, experts on Iran say. Do they want to project an image of a strong regime firmly in control of its borders or that of a hostage-taker once again?

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