The Biden Administration has agreed to a deal with the Iranian regime that will see an exchange of prisoners between the two countries, in exchange for the U.S. releasing $6 billion in Iranian funds that have been frozen for a number of years.
According to Fox News, the deal will see five American citizens released from Iran as five Iranians are released from the United States. Another part of the deal involves the creation of a special waiver that will transfer the $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets from South Korea to Qatar, without the transaction being considered a violation of American sanctions.
The deal was signed last week by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, but Congress was not notified until Monday, which coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the September 11th attacks of 2001. Iran is still classified as a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States government.
In anticipation of a deal, Iran had transferred four of the five American prisoners from jail to house arrest, joining the fifth detainee. The $6 billion transfer was apparently the final element needed by Iran to approve the overall deal. Several European allies were uncertain about participating in the deal due to possible sanctions, thus leading to Blinken’s special waiver.
“As we have said from the outset, what is being pursued here is an arrangement wherein we secure the release of 5 wrongfully held Americans,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson. “This remains a sensitive and ongoing process.”
“While this is a step in the process, no individuals have been or will be released into U.S. custody this week,” Watson continued. “We have kept Congress extensively informed from the outset of this process – long before today – and we will continue to do so, including with additional already scheduled briefings this week.”
But the deal has garnered significant backlash, as well as criticisms to a similarly widely-panned deal struck with Iran by the Obama Administration. Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that such a deal “will only feed Tehran’s appetite to keep taking hostages.”
“Indeed, the Islamic Republic showcased for the world a willingness to take hostages less than a year since its inception,” Taleblu pointed out. “Worse, freeing-up the $6 billion forgets why it was frozen in the first place. Even the Obama administration, who signed sanctions bills into law creating those escrow accounts, did not trust Iran to stop funding its nuclear or military programs using oil money.”