Daily Bulletin


News

  • Written by Ian Parmeter, Research Scholar, Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, Australian National University

Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert’s release from an Iranian prison after more than two years’ detention is certainly a welcome development.

However, the circumstances raise some uncomfortable questions for Australian and Western diplomats related to Iran’s penchant for using hostage-taking as a bargaining chip for the release of its own citizens detained abroad for suspected or proven crimes, including terrorism.

There seems little doubt Moore-Gilbert was released as part of a prisoner exchange. Iranian state media has shown pictures of the academic with Australian embassy officials in Tehran, juxtaposed with film of three Iranian men being welcomed by Iranian officials, apparently at Tehran’s airport.

The Iranian media says she was exchanged for an Iranian “economic activist” and two Iranian citizens, who had been detained “abroad on trumped-up charges”. The report does not name the men.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has given a carefully worded statement in response to questions about a prisoner swap.

If other people have been released in other places, they are the decisions of the sovereign governments. There are no people who have been held in Australia who have been released.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released. But will a prisoner swap with Australia encourage more hostage-taking by Iran? Morrison would not speak directly about the prisoner swap to ensure the safety of any other Australians detained overseas. Lukas Coch/AAP

That may be true as far as Australia is concerned. But a report by The New York Times, quoting Iranian social media channels associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), identifies the three Iranians as Saeed Moradi, Mohammad Khazaei and Masoud Sedaghat Zadeh.

The three had been detained in Thailand since 2012 on charges of planning to plant bombs in Bangkok and assassinate Israeli diplomats there. One of those men had reportedly lost his legs when a bomb he was carrying exploded prematurely.

Read more: I kept silent to protect my colleague and friend, Kylie Moore-Gilbert. But Australia's quiet diplomatic approach is not working

In a similar context, the release last year of two Australians being held in Iran, Jolie King and Mark Firkin, coincided with an Iranian research student at the University of Queensland, Reza Dehbashi Kivi, being permitted by Australian officials to return to his home country.

Dehbashi Kivi had allegedly been seeking to export radar equipment for detecting stealth planes in contravention of US sanctions. The ABC reported at the time the US was seeking his extradition.

Quiet diplomacy usually works best

The Australian government is depicting Moore-Gilbert’s release as a win for quiet diplomacy in assisting Australians arrested abroad.

There is no doubt a calm and measured approach is the most effective way of resolving knotty consular cases – even when the charges levelled against our citizens seem highly doubtful, as was the case with Moore-Gilbert.

This approach worked with the release of journalist Peter Greste from detention in Egypt in 2015, although there is no evidence of any prisoner exchange or other quid pro quo in that case.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released. But will a prisoner swap with Australia encourage more hostage-taking by Iran? Peter Greste waves to supporters after arriving in Australia following his release from an Egyptian prison. Tertius Pickard/AP

In the Moore-Gilbert case, the apparent prisoner exchange would have required the agreement of the Thai government, and possibly clearing the arrangement with Israel as well, given the Iranians held in Thailand had reportedly been plotting attacks against Israeli interests. Quite an effort for “quiet diplomacy”.

Australians travelling abroad are constantly reminded they are subject to the laws of the country they are visiting. If an Australian is detained abroad, the most consular officials can usually do is ensure that person is treated fairly and humanely in accordance with local laws.

Thumping the table and making demands, even if the charges seem totally outrageous, is usually totally counter-productive.

A fraught relationship

The situation for Australians who get into trouble in Iran is particularly fraught. Australia’s relations with Iran are tense at normal times. The Iranian security authorities see Australia as close not only to the US, but to Israel, and are therefore suspicious of Australians.

If an Australian is a dual-Iranian national, Iranian law treats him or her as an Iranian citizen, further complicating the task of consular officials when individuals are detained.

Read more: The Australian government needs to step up its fight to free Kylie Moore-Gilbert from prison in Iran

Iran has reason to be particularly suspicious of US and Israeli hostility at the moment.

In July, there were reports of a series of explosions at sites linked Iran’s missile and nuclear programs.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released. But will a prisoner swap with Australia encourage more hostage-taking by Iran? A satellite image shows a damaged building after a fire and explosion at Iran’s Natanz nuclear site in July. Planet Labs Inc./AP

Media reports suggested Israel was responsible. Israel has a history of unattributed attacks on Iran’s nuclear program, including use of the Stuxnet computer virus, which US officials have confirmed was developed in partnership with the US.

Moreover, under the Trump administration, the US has had a policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran’s economy, which has drastically curtailed Iran’s oil exports. Israel’s Defence Forces have also been instructed to prepare for the possibility Trump may order a military strike against Iran in the final days of his presidency, according to Axios.

Other Westerners still being detained

Complicating Australia’s relationship with Iran even further are the different power centres in Iran.

Iran’s IRGC has the power to overrule all civilian authorities, including President Hassan Rouhani. It was significant that Moore-Gilbert was arrested when seeking to leave Iran after attending an academic conference to which she had been formally invited. This implied official approval to enter and leave the country.

Read more: Infographic: what is the conflict between the US and Iran about and how is Australia now involved?

Diplomatic and consular officials in Tehran must also deal with the Iranian Foreign Ministry in cases involving detained foreigners. The foreign ministry is often powerless in cases in which the IRGC has an interest.

So Moore-Gilbert’s release at this time is remarkably fortuitous, particularly as Iran currently holds more than 10 Westerners or dual-national citizens captive.

However, if it is confirmed that the deal is a direct prisoner exchange, criticism here and among our allies that Australia has aided and abetted Iran’s hostage taking strategy is bound to grow.

Authors: Ian Parmeter, Research Scholar, Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, Australian National University

Read more https://theconversation.com/kylie-moore-gilbert-has-been-released-but-will-a-prisoner-swap-with-australia-encourage-more-hostage-taking-by-iran-150942

Writers Wanted

It's not just about the rise in anti-Semitism: why we need real stories for better Holocaust education in Australia

arrow_forward

With the US now calling China's treatment of the Uyghurs 'genocide', how should NZ respond?

arrow_forward

Creating Everlasting Memories with Wedding Photography

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.   HADLEY: I was just referring to this story from the Courier Mail, which you’ve probably caught up with today about t...

Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison - avatar Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Tips to find the best plastic manufacturing supplier for your needs

Plastics are very much an important part of all of our lives, but they’re particularly valuable to a wide variety of industries that rely on their production for their operations. The industries, ...

News Co - avatar News Co

7 foolproof tips for bidding successfully at a property auction

Auctions can be beneficial for prospective buyers, as they are transparent and fair. If you reach the limit you are willing to pay, you can simply walk away. Another benefit of an auction is tha...

Dominique Grubisa - avatar Dominique Grubisa

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion