Iran Prisoner Swap: Iran frees 5 Americans in prisoner swap as US unfreezes $6 billion in oil revenue

WASHINGTON: Five Americans who had been imprisoned in Iran were allowed to leave the country Monday, after two years of high-stakes negotiations in which the US agreed to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue and dismiss federal charges against five Iranians accused of violating US sanctions. The announcement that the Americans took off in a plane from Tehran came as President Joe Biden and President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran were to attend the annual UN General Assembly meeting of world leaders Tuesday.
The five Americans, some of whom had been held for years in Evin Prison, one of the most notorious detention centers in Iran, flew to Doha, the capital of Qatar, for a Cold War-style exchange with two of the five Iranian nationals.
Three others declined to return to Iran, US officials said. At the same time, the US informed Iran that it had completed the transfer of about $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue from South Korea to a Qatari bank account. Iran’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi, suggested that Monday’s exchange could be “a step in the direction of a humanitarian action between us and America.”
“It can definitely help in building trust.” Top aides to Biden have said financial sanctions and strict monitoring will prevent Iran from spending the money on anything except food, medicine and other humanitarian goods. But they acknowledge that the deal might free up money that Iran is already spending on those items for other purposes. The terms of the deal have generated intense criticism from Republicans, who accused Biden of helping to finance Iran’s terrorist activities around the world. The deal comes as part of a larger effort by the Biden administration to deescalate tensions with Iran, which had soared in the years since President Donald Trump abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which placed limits on Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.


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