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Biden Admin Finishing Deal With Iran to Release American Prisoners

Iran would get a handful of prisoners in return and have access to $6 billion in funds frozen by sanctions

U.S. officials are buttoning up a deal with Iran to exchange five imprisoned Americans for several jailed Iranians, and would release roughly $6 billion in Iranian assets currently blocked under U.S. sanctions.

In an official statement posted to the White House Briefing Room, the Biden administration acknowledged the release of the five Americans, while making no mention of the easing of sanctions.

The statement reads:

We have received confirmation that Iran has released from prison five Americans who were unjustly detained and has placed them on house arrest. While this is an encouraging step, these U.S. citizens – Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Shargi, and two Americans who at this time wish to remain private – should have never been detained in the first place. We will continue to monitor their condition as closely as possible. Of course, we will not rest until they are all back home in the United States.

Until that time, negotiations for their eventual release remain ongoing and are delicate. We will, therefore, have little in the way of details to provide about the state of their house arrest or about our efforts to secure their freedom.

News outlets revealed additional details of the deal, including the eventual access to billions of dollars in Iranian oil revenue. If the proposed agreement goes through, as NBC News reports, Iran will be allowed to access the funds for medicine, food, or for other humanitarian purchases in accordance with existing U.S. sanctions.

Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi and Morad Tahbaz, who were all charged with spying, along with two others, whose names have been withheld, have been released. Of the two individuals not named, one is a scientist and the other a businessman, people briefed on the details of the release told the New York Times.

Though the Biden administration has formally declined to comment on what Iran will get in return, sources told the Times that the U.S. will release a handful of Iranian nationals in prison for violating sanctions. Also, the sources said, the U.S. will transfer nearly $6 billion of Iran’s assets to South Korea, into an account in the central bank of Qatar.

The account will be controlled by the government of Qatar and regulated so that Iran may only use the funds to purchase the humanitarian items included in the terms of the deal.

As the Times notes, the Americans will be allowed to leave Iran once the money is deposited into the Qatari bank account, which is expected to take between four to six weeks.

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