The United States and Iran have reached an agreement to secure the release of five imprisoned Americans in exchange for several jailed Iranians and access to around $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue. The deal follows over two years of secret negotiations and marks a significant development in US-Iran relations.
As part of the agreement, Iran has released five Iranian American dual citizens into house arrest. The prisoners, including Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi, and Morad Tahbaz, had been imprisoned on charges of spying. Two other prisoners, whose names have not been disclosed, were also released. They will be held in a hotel in Tehran for several weeks before being allowed to return to the United States.
However, it is important to note that this is only the first step in the process, and there are no guarantees about what happens next. The Americans have been told that they will be held at the hotel under guard by Iranian officials.
Details about what Iran will receive in return are yet to be confirmed by the Biden administration. It is expected that Iran will gain access to $6 billion of its frozen assets in South Korea, which will be transferred to an account in the central bank of Qatar. The funds will be controlled and regulated by the government of Qatar to ensure that Iran can only use the money for humanitarian purchases, such as medicine and food.
This prisoner exchange deal is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to bring home Americans wrongfully detained in foreign countries. It follows a series of high-profile swaps engineered by the administration.
The negotiations between the United States and Iran were mediated by Oman, Qatar, and Switzerland. The final deal took shape in recent months, and all sides have been working on the logistics for weeks. Unlike previous exchanges where detainees immediately boarded a plane out of Iran, this exchange will take place in a series of coordinated steps. The Americans will be allowed to leave Iran once the money arrives in the Qatari bank account.
The release of the Iranian funds held in South Korea is likely to face criticism in the United States, with concerns that the money could end up in the hands of militant groups. However, the Biden administration has argued that the funds will only be used for humanitarian purposes and that opposing the deal means denying Americans the chance to return home and blocking the Iranian people’s access to food and medicine.
This agreement comes at a time when the United States and Iran have been unable to reach a deal on Iran’s nuclear program and US sanctions. Talks to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal collapsed last summer. While the prisoner exchange is a positive step, it does not address the broader tensions between the two countries.