According to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, a prisoner swap will result in the release of five Americans who have been held in Iran on Monday.
Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, Morad Tahbaz, as well as two additional Americans who requested that their identities not be made public, are among the arrested Americans who are being deported.
Namazi, 51, is a dual-nationalist Iranian-American oil executive. He was first detained in 2015, and after being found guilty of “collaboration with a hostile government” due to his connections to the United States, he was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Businessman Shargi, 58, was taken into custody without cause in 2018 and freed in 2019, only to be apprehended again in 2020 and given a 10-year term on an espionage allegation.
67-year-old conservationist Tahbaz is an Iranian-American who is also a British citizen. He was detained in 2018 and given a 10-year prison term.
In exchange for Iran’s release of the five American citizens who were jailed, foreign banks were permitted to transfer about $6 billion in oil money after Secretary of State Antony Blinken approved a broad waiver of U.S. sanctions.
The $6 billion comes from a restricted account in South Korea, where it was essentially frozen when the United States reinstituted sanctions against Tehran after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program. The money will be transferred to Qatar with limitations on how Iran can use the money.
Nasser Kanaani, a representative for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, stated that Iran anticipates receiving its frozen assets on Monday and added that the monies were unblocked as a result of “active foreign policy.”
This asset will be provided today, Kanaani declared. It will be used where it is needed.
According to Kanaani, the agreement also calls for the release of five Iranian prisoners from American jails.
In the days following the first announcement, Republicans denounced the proposed trade.
“The Americans taken prisoner by Iran are defenseless captives who want quick, unrestricted release. The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mike McCaul, said in a statement, “However, I remain deeply concerned that the administration’s decision to waive sanctions to facilitate the transfer of $6 billion in funds for Iran, the top state sponsor of terrorism in the world, creates a direct incentive for America’s adversaries to conduct future hostage-taking.
However, John Kirby, the coordinator of the National Security Council, reiterated during a press conference on Wednesday that “Iran will not be getting any sanctions relief.”
“It is Iranian currency that had been established in these accounts to permit certain transaction with foreign nations on items like Iranian oil. It’s not an open checkbook. They cannot use it whatever they choose. $6 billion is not all present at once. They will have to submit a withdrawal request for purely humanitarian reasons, he added, adding that there will be “sufficient oversight to ensure that the request is legitimate.”
Kirby asserts that the cash’ intended recipients—the Iranian people, not the government—will be.
When asked why the six billion dollars had to be released in addition to the five Iranian inmates, Kirby responded, “This is the deal we were able to strike to secure the release of five Americans.”
“We feel at ease with the terms of this transaction. I’ve heard complaints that they’re somehow getting the better of it. You could receive a different response if you asked the relatives of those five Americans, he predicted.
Ebrahim Raisi, the president of Iran, asserted that the currency is “fungible,” but Kirby responded, “He’s wrong. Simply put, he is in the wrong.
In response to Republican criticism, Kirby stated that the money in this deal is “not a payment of any kind” and “not ransom” to guarantee the release of the Americans.
Rep. Kevin Hern tweeted on Tuesday, “As Chairman of the [Republican Study Committee], we will use all legislative options to reverse this agreement and prevent additional ransom payments and sanctions relief to Iran.”
Only two of the Iranians who were anticipated to be released from American prisons, according to Iranian spokeswoman Kanaani, were eager to go back to Iran.
According to Kanaani, two of the [Iranian] citizens will voluntarily return to Iran, one will join his family in a third country, and the other two will remain in the United States.