Washington and Tehran have reportedly reached an agreement on a prisoner swap and the unfreezing of Iranian assets. According to multiple media outlets, President Joe Biden has approved the deal, which is expected to see the release of five detained Americans and the unfreezing of approximately $6 billion in Iranian assets. The agreement also includes the release of five Iranians who are currently incarcerated in US prisons.
While the deal has been tentatively agreed upon, it is not considered final until the five Americans are back on US soil, a process that could take several weeks. Four of the Americans have already been released from Tehran’s Evin Prison and are currently under house arrest, while the fifth was already being held under house arrest. The detainees have been identified as Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Shargi, and two others who have requested anonymity.
The US National Security Council has stated that it will continue to closely monitor the condition of the detainees until they are safely returned to the United States. The negotiations are described as delicate and ongoing. US officials have vehemently denied the espionage charges against Namazi, Tahbaz, and Shargi, asserting that they should never have been detained. Namazi, in particular, has made public appeals for Biden to negotiate his release.
In addition to the prisoner swap, the agreement also addresses the unfreezing of Iranian assets. Currently held in a restricted South Korean account due to US sanctions, the $6 billion in funds will be transferred to another country, reportedly Qatar, and made available to Iran with certain conditions. The US aims to restrict the use of the funds for trade purposes that comply with Washington’s sanctions.
It is important to note that the agreement does not include any terms related to Iran’s nuclear program. The United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018. President Biden has expressed his intention to revive and strengthen the JCPOA, but his efforts in doing so since taking office have yet to yield results.
The tensions between the US and Iran have escalated since the US withdrawal from the JCPOA. Both countries have increased their military presence in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most significant chokepoint for oil supplies.
In conclusion, the reported agreement between Washington and Tehran regarding the prisoner swap and unfreezing of Iranian assets is a significant development in US-Iran relations. While the deal still needs to be finalized and the detainees need to safely return to the US, it represents a step towards potential diplomatic engagement between the two nations. The resolution of these issues could have broader implications for the revival of the Iran nuclear deal and the reduction of tensions in the region.