“Iran has been using hostage-taking as a tool of statecraft for four decades now. The Revolutionary Guards are blatant about it and believe it delivers results,” said Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow with the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Among the tragedies of modern Iran is a society that is famous for its hospitality to foreigners, and a regime which views them as potential assets to be traded.”
Charles Reese, a friend of Ms. Moore-Gilbert from her time at Cambridge University, said he had felt anxious in the past few months after having learned that Ms. Moore-Gilbert had been moved to Qarchak prison, southeast of Tehran, in July.
“We heard that there were movements, but since we saw so little activities, we weren’t confident that there would be any development,” said Mr. Reese, who has been in contact with Ms. Moore-Gilbert’s family.
Mr. Reese said he had learned of Iran’s announcement about her release through a journalist at the BBC after hearing rumors in the past few days, which he didn’t want to believe. Ms. Moore-Gilbert’s relatives have declined to comment on the fate of the academic since her arrest.
The prisoner exchange came five months after Iran released an American Navy veteran, Michael R. White, as part of a prisoner exchange.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said in September that Iran was ready to swap more prisoners with the United States, but he has repeatedly rejected the accusation that his country takes hostages as political pawns and has said the judiciary is independent.
There are currently at least half a dozen foreign and dual nationals held in Iranian prisons: Iranian-American citizens Siamak Namazi, a businessman, and his father, Baquer Namazi, a former official with Unicef; Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American environmentalist; Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian charity worker with the Thomson Reuters Foundation; Nahid Taghavi, a German-Iranian architect; and Dr. Ahmad Reza Jalali, a Swedish-Iranian physician and researcher.