The United States will continue to impose restrictions on $6 billion worth of seized Iranian assets that are set to be released as part of a prisoner swap deal, in which Iran is expected to free five American detainees. The White House expressed its intention to closely monitor where the funds will be directed, emphasizing that the negotiations are still ongoing and that the deal is not finalized.
According to White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, the funds can only be accessed for food, medicine, and medical equipment that do not have a dual military use. He highlighted that there will be a rigorous process of due diligence and standards applied, with input from the US Treasury Department.
News of the agreement was first reported earlier this week, stating that in addition to unfreezing Iranian funds, the US would release five Iranians currently held in US prisons. President Joe Biden has reportedly given his approval to the deal in principle.
The White House has confirmed that the five Americans in Iranian custody are now under house arrest, with four recently released from Tehran’s Evin Prison. While three of the detainees have been identified as Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, and Emad Shargi, the others have requested to remain anonymous.
The frozen Iranian assets are currently held in a restricted account in South Korea. Under the proposed deal, the funds would be transferred to Qatar, where Iran could regain access to them. Kirby stated that there would be no obstacles to this transaction if an agreement is reached.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has clarified that the prisoner swap will not lead to sanctions relief for Iran, affirming that they would only receive their own funds and that the assets would be limited to humanitarian purposes.
Tehran has repeatedly called for an end to the economic sanctions imposed by the US, which were intensified under former President Donald Trump after he withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran, the US, and other world powers. While negotiations to revive the nuclear agreement in exchange for sanctions relief have largely stalled, Kirby expressed that the US would welcome any steps taken by Iran to scale down its nuclear program.
The emerging prisoner swap deal comes amid escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf. The US has recently ordered several military deployments to the region, including F-35 fighter jets, a guided-missile destroyer, and other warships. Additionally, 3,000 American marines and sailors were stationed in the area earlier this week to deter Iranian forces, as the US Navy accused Iran of harassing and seizing merchant vessels.
In conclusion, the US will maintain restrictions on $6 billion of seized Iranian assets as part of the developing prisoner swap deal. The White House will have full visibility on the destination of the funds, limited to humanitarian purposes. The prisoner swap deal comes against the backdrop of ongoing tensions in the Persian Gulf, and while negotiations to revive the nuclear agreement have stalled, the US would welcome any steps by Iran to scale down its nuclear program.