Monday, September 18, 2023
As part of a larger US-Iran agreement, five Iranian-US citizens who have been detained in Iran are anticipated to be freed on Monday, according to a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry.
Reuters reported that a Qatari plane waited in Iran to fly out US detainees in a swap for five Iranians held in the United States, thanks to a Doha-mediated deal that has also unfrozen $6 billion of Iranian funds.
Iran and the United States were told the funds had been transferred to accounts in Qatar, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters.
That triggered an exchange sequence agreed upon after months of talks between the arch-foes, who are at odds over Tehran's nuclear ambitions and a host of other issues.
All five of the arrested have been deemed to be unlawfully held by the Iranian government, according to the US.
Nasser Kanaani, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, stated during a press conference that was broadcast on Press TV on Monday that the release "will hopefully be completed" along with the other components of the arrangement.
According to the US-Iran agreement, $6 billion in Iranian funds that were previously kept in restricted accounts in South Korea will be moved to banks in Qatar.
Additionally, a source familiar with the specifics of the situation reported that Qatar has informed Iranian and US officials that the money has been transferred from Switzerland to bank accounts in Qatar, according to CNN.
The report went on to say that the funds came from oil sales that were allowed and placed into accounts set up under the Trump administration.
In the meantime, representatives of the Biden administration have emphasised that the money that has been transferred to the Qatari accounts can only be used by Iran for humanitarian needs and that the US Treasury Department will keep an eye on each transaction.
Under the agreement, Doha agreed to monitor how Iran spends the unfrozen funds to ensure the cash is spent on humanitarian goods, such as food and medicine, and not any items under US sanctions.
The transfer of Iran's funds has drawn criticism from US Republicans who say Biden, a Democrat, is in effect paying a ransom for US citizens. The White House has defended the deal.
The US dual citizens to be released include Siamak Namazi, 51, and Emad Sharqi, 59, both businessmen, and Morad Tahbaz, 67, an environmentalist who also holds British nationality. They were released from prison and put under house arrest last month.
A fourth US citizen was also released into house arrest, while a fifth was already under house arrest. Their identities have not been disclosed.
Iranian officials have named the five Iranians to be released by the U.S. as Mehrdad Moin-Ansari, Kambiz Attar-Kashani, Reza Sarhangpour-Kafrani, Amin Hassanzadeh and Kaveh Afrasiabi.
Two Iranian officials previously said that Afrasiabi would remain in the United States but had not mentioned others.
Ties between Washington and Tehran have been boiling since Donald Trump, a Republican, pulled the US out of a nuclear deal between Iran and global powers when he was president in 2018.
Reaching another nuclear deal has gained little traction since, as President Joe Biden prepares for the 2024 U.S. election.
As a first step in the deal, Washington waived sanctions to allow the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar.
The funds were blocked in South Korea, normally one of Iran's largest oil customers, when Washington imposed sweeping financial sanctions on Tehran and the cash could not be transferred.