Five Americans detained in Iran will be released Monday in a prisoner exchange, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
Among the repatriated detained U.S. citizens are Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz, as well as two others who asked that their identities not be made public.
Namazi, 51, is an oil executive and dual Iranian-American nationalist. He was first arrested in 2015 and then sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of “collaboration with a hostile government” due to his ties to the United States.
Shargi, a 58-year-old businessman, was arrested without explanation in 2018 and released in 2019 before being arrested again in 2020 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage.
Tahbaz, 67, is an Iranian-American environmental activist who also holds British citizenship. He was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed a blanket waiver of U.S. sanctions, clearing the way for international banks to authorize the transfer of about $6 billion in Iranian oil revenues in exchange for Iran’s release of the five U.S. citizens detainees.
The $6 billion came from a restricted account in South Korea, where it was effectively frozen when the United States reinstated sanctions on Tehran after former President Donald Trump left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program and will be transferred to Qatar. with restrictions on how Iran can spend the funds.
Iran hopes to begin receiving its frozen assets on Monday, said Nasser Kanaani, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, adding that an “active foreign policy” had led to the release of the funds.
“Today this asset will be delivered,” Kanaani said. “It will be invested where it is needed.”
Five Iranian detainees will also be released from U.S. prisons as part of the deal, Kanaani said.
Republicans rejected the planned swap in the days following the initial announcement.
“The Americans held by Iran are innocent hostages who must be released immediately and unconditionally. However, I remain deeply concerned that the administration’s decision to lift sanctions to facilitate the transfer of $6 billion funds for Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, “This directly incentivizes future hostage-taking by America’s adversaries,” said the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. representatives, Mike McCaul, in a statement.
But National Security Council coordinator John Kirby insisted during a press briefing Wednesday that “Iran will not receive any sanctions relief.”
“It’s Iranian money that was established in these accounts to allow some trade with foreign countries on things like Iranian oil. (…) It’s not a blank check. They don’t can’t spend it the way they want. It’s not $6 billion in total.” They will have to make a request for withdrawal for humanitarian purposes only,” he said, adding that there will be “sufficient oversight to ensure that the request is valid.”
It is the Iranian people who will be the beneficiaries of the funds, not the regime, according to Kirby.
Asked why the $6 billion needed to be released in addition to the five Iranian prisoners, Kirby said: “That’s the deal we were able to make to secure the release of five Americans.” »
“We’re comfortable with the parameters of this deal. I’ve heard the critics say that somehow they get the best outcome. Ask the families of these five Americans who gets the best result and I think you would get a different answer,” he said.
Asked about Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s assertion that money is “fungible,” Kirby replied: “He’s wrong.” He is simply wrong. »
Kirby said the funds in the deal are “not a payment of any kind” or “not a ransom” to secure the Americans’ release, responding to Republicans’ complaints.
“As president of [Republican Study Committee]”We will use all legislative options to renege on this agreement and prevent further ransom payments and sanctions relief against Iran,” Rep. Kevin Hern tweeted Tuesday.
Kanaani, the Iranian spokesman, said only two of the Iranians expected to be released from U.S. prisons were willing to return to Iran.
“Two of [Iranian] “Citizens will happily return to Iran, one person will join their family in a third country and the other two citizens will want to stay in America,” Kanaani said.
This is a developing story. Please check again for updates.