Five U.S. citizens who had been detained by Iran have been released in a diplomatic deal brokered between the United States and Iran.
This complex agreement involved the transfer of $6 billion in unfrozen Iranian oil assets and the release of five Iranians who were facing charges in the U.S.
The American prisoners who were released include Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, Morad Tahbaz, and two others who opted to remain anonymous. They had all been detained on what were described as unsubstantiated charges of spying and had faced lengthy prison sentences.
The release process began with the prisoners being flown from Tehran to Doha, Qatar. Upon their arrival in Doha, they were transferred to U.S. custody. The final leg of their journey would take them to the Washington, D.C., area, where they would be reunited with their families.
This diplomatic effort was made possible through the involvement of intermediaries, including Swiss and Qatari officials. The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Iran, which necessitated the use of third parties in the negotiations.
In exchange for the release of the American prisoners, the Biden administration agreed to assist Iran in accessing $6 billion in Iranian oil assets that had been held in South Korea. These funds were transferred through European banks in euros to a restricted account in Qatar. It is important to note that the funds are “severely restricted” and are intended for humanitarian purposes, such as the purchase of food, medicine, medical devices, and agricultural products. The U.S. Treasury will closely monitor the account to ensure compliance with the agreed-upon restrictions.
While the release of the American prisoners marks the end of their lengthy ordeal, it has also raised concerns about the potential for future hostage-taking by Iran. A senior administration official warned that traveling to Iran remains “an extremely high-risk endeavor.”
This development comes as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York. President Biden is also expected to attend, which could lead to diplomatic tensions between the two nations.