The act of State Terrorism that took the life of Iran’s leading scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh came as I started writing this article, but only widens the scope of my enquiry to include the likely foreknowledge of the attack by Australia’s closest partner in the region.
The release of Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert from Iranian detention this week seems to have come as a surprise to most people, probably including herself, though not of course to those who negotiated the apparent prisoner-swap deal. Moore-Gilbert was detained by Iranian authorities in September 2018, after visiting Iran and the city of Qum for a conference and study tour, a fact that did not become well-known until mid-2019 during the Persian Gulf “freedom of navigation” crisis.
No more information was forthcoming, beyond sympathetic pictures of the pretty and innocent-looking young woman, and her dual citizenship with the UK, though both of these things are desirable attributes for a “spy”. The possession of two passports would immediately raise suspicions for Iranian authorities were they to become aware of it, as it is a simple way round the entry-ban on anyone who has visited Israel. This is also something well known to Australians and Israelis, not least because of the passport forging scandal following the assassination of Mahmoud Mabhouh in Dubai in January 2010
The speculation over what Moore-Gilbert may have been doing and who she may have been talking with naturally included suspicion of any connection with Israel or with the MEK, whose recent activities in Iran demonstrate the need for a tough response. Rumours circulated that she had “an Israeli boyfriend” but were dismissed as disinformation. We should remember this now it has been revealed that Kylie Moore-Gilbert has an Israeli husband. Not only was this publicly hidden, but someone determined that it must be hidden, until it could be hidden no more.
There are a number of relevant aspects to this case, each with ramifications of its own. First are the circumstances around Moore-Gilbert’s detention and the political context of Iran’s highly ambiguous relationship with Australia. Second are the details of the deal that saw her released – from a 10 year jail sentence for espionage, - who was involved and what exactly was conceded by Australia or Israel? And third, how this fits into the current tense environment in the region following new alliances against Iran made with Israel, and a change in US leadership – a tension that has been seriously compounded by the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
It wasn’t until a year after Kylie Moore Gilbert’s visit to Qum that her detention became known to the Australian public, following the drama over the arrest of two Australian travellers for filming near a military base. Their detention was itself not made public for ten weeks, which appeared connected with the possible political fall-out over Australia’s planned involvement in the US-UK maritime coalition in the Gulf. As I wrote at the time, had the Australian public been aware of the detention before Australia committed to this provocative coalition, they would likely have opposed it.
It is easy to forget just how close we came then to a direct war with Iran following a string of provocations in the Gulf, detailed here. Yet following a year in which everything has been turned upside down, including the price of oil, and Australia’s navy deployment to the Gulf has ended, suddenly we are thrown back onto the brink of war once again, and to a situation which seems even less predictable.
This time however there is a significant difference – the centrality of Israel’s leadership and campaign against Iran is barely concealed, and unconstrained. As a report in the Melbourne Age “revealed” today on the prisoner swap deal that was allegedly negotiated to secure Moore-Gilbert’s release:
“there were also alternative prisoner-swap arrangements that were floated that involved Iranian prisoners in other countries. Every possible deal required the participation of Israel.”
The Age report, which reads more like an official Government press release, also explains that:
“Senior Australian Government sources, who cannot speak publicly, say her Israeli link (being married to an Israeli citizen) caused two problems. It led Iranian authorities to genuinely think it was proof of a conspiracy she was an Israeli spy, and the regime knew it could use it to pressure Australia and Israel for something big in return for her release.”
The controversy that this prisoner-swap deal has raised in Australia is however not about the deception engaged in by Moore-Gilbert, or the Australian Government that has hidden her Zionist credentials from the public for two years, but over Iran’s use of “hostage diplomacy”, and whether submitting to Iran’s demands will set an undesirable precedent and “embolden the regime”.
They seem to have missed the point! (Notwithstanding Israel’s record of using “hostage diplomacy” – or kidnapping – against Palestinians en masse.) At this time it would seem to any fair observer that securing the release of three Iranian prisoners in Thailand is poor compensation for giving up a potential hostage as valuable as Kylie Moore-Gilbert, particularly in the light of the Israeli assassination that took place almost immediately afterwards. Some thanks! So it’s only realistic to question whether some other concessions were made by Australia that could have persuaded Iran that KMG was not worth keeping, and which Iran could actually trust Australia to honour.
And it is only Australia that could deliver such concessions, as Israel would neither be prepared to make any nor be trusted to keep to them. According to the Age, Israel did make a great concession by “blessing” the release of three Iranian men imprisoned in Thailand in 2012 for a bomb plot against “Israeli diplomats”:
“The deal didn’t please the Israelis but they agreed to it because they knew it was Moore-Gilbert’s connection to Israel that had her languishing in jail and felt a sense of responsibility to help”.
As they might for an asset who had performed a valuable duty for the Zionist state, though this is not always indicative given the record. Helping Robert Maxwell slip off the Lady Ghislaine springs to mind. The prisoner swap does however seem to confirm the Iranians’ assertion on Moore-Gilbert’s mission, as reported in an almost unreadable editorial for the Australian newspaper –
“The malign nature of the theocracy in Tehran was evident in its denouncing “Zionist” influences and continuing to insist that KMG was an operative for TWO intelligence agencies”
The rest of the editorial contrasts Kylie Moore-Gilbert’s near angelic qualities and love for the Iranian people with the diabolical nature of “the most serious threat to Middle East peace”, the “odious theocracy” which “resolutely rejected recent positive developments in the stance of Sunni Gulf states towards Israel.”
I don’t like to be picky, but wouldn’t the ethno-religious “state” of Israel, whose borders are defined by violence over the people whose land it occupies, rate as quite “odious”? A state which regularly and consistently defies both international law and civilised conduct by launching unprovoked attacks on its neighbours, and supporting terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq, Iran and numerous other countries? A state which uses its network of foreign affiliates to corrupt and destroy democratic governments who dare to fight for the rights of Palestinians?
One need look no further than the two nations with whom Kylie Moore-Gilbert had citizenship than to see how the Israel lobby in both countries has made them two of Israel’s closest “allies”, following “anti-Semitism” campaigns targeting political parties who express support for Palestinians and international law, with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party the most glaring victim.
In the case of Iran however, there is another lobby in the diaspora which is also dominant in Australia and the UK, and which must surely be involved in this case. It is always the views of these opponents of the Iranian government that get ventilated by the Australian state broadcasters, as here. The possibility or likelihood that Kylie Moore-Gilbert had close contacts with these diaspora groups also positions her as a possible intermediary with their network of contacts within Iran.
Clearly it’s necessary to wait to see what now happens before further speculation, and whether Israel and its partners really want to start a hot war with Iran, and are prepared for the consequences. It’s a war that has been a long time in the making – now nearly three years since the MEK-backed protest rallies in Iran, referred to in this article.
That article also draws attention to another small piece in the Persian puzzle – the taking down of American Herald Tribune by the FBI, following fabricated claims by Fire-eye alleging sponsorship of the site by the Iranian government. The FBI claims that authors for AHT were duped into writing and expressing views that were “anti-Israel, anti-US, anti-Semitic and pro-Hezbollah”. As the author of quite a number of articles expressing such views, which collectively may be described as “anti-Zionist”, I am happy to be recognised by Iran’s mortal enemies, and also pleased to have a platform like AHT which is prepared to publish them. Far from being paid to do so, I would be prepared to pay AHT to publish my articles if it proved necessary!
*(Top image: Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (left) Kylie Moore Gilbert (right)