A guest piece by Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert
Credible reports are circulating about a new cash-for-hostages deal underway between Iran and the United States.
The deal is thought to involve $7 billion in frozen Iranian funds held in South Korean banks due to US sanctions, which the Iranians are demanding in exchange for three imprisoned Iranian-Americans: Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz.
These three innocent men have been held in Iran for years under spurious security-related charges and are recognised as wrongfully detained by the US government. The US must prioritise securing their release, but at what price?
Iran’s highly effective strategy of hostage diplomacy has ramped up in recent years. Previous prisoner swaps and frozen funds/debt transfers to Iran have undoubtedly encouraged it to take more foreign hostages, feeding an emerging business model that only results in more innocent people being subjected to torture and deprivation of liberty. Officials have even bragged about using hostage-taking to fund the sanctions-crippled state budget.
It is hugely morally problematic to reward the Iranian regime to the tune of $7 billion at a time when the Iranian people are rising up in unprecedented numbers demanding freedom, and being tortured, raped, murdered and executed as a result.
The Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), as the principal group engaged in the hostage-taking enterprise, considers these billions to be its own private bounty. Despite the fact that the US has listed the IRGC as a terror organisation, Washington appears to be poised to allow it to access this money at the same time as the group is butchering the Iranian people in the streets.
Siamak, Emad and Morad must be freed. However, countries doing deals with Iran have a moral responsibility to ensure they are not incentivising more hostage-taking and that they are not funding the regime’s campaign of terror against the Iranian people. There has to be another way.
Intrigue’s take:Kylie is one of the most perceptive commentators on Iran and its use of hostage diplomacy. Her extraordinary book, The Uncaged Sky, details the 804 days she spent in an Iranian prison after being falsely charged with espionage. It’s a must-read. And we’re honoured Kylie shared her thoughts with us today.