Iran prisoner swap moves forward

Five American citizens wrongfully imprisoned and two family members who have been banned from traveling from Iran boarded a Qatari plane en route for Doha early Monday, according to a senior administration official. They will then travel to Washington to reunite with families.


The citizens include Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Shargi and two unidentified Americans who have wished to remain private. Additionally, the mother of Namazi and the wife of Tahbaz, both of whom have not been able to leave Iran, were also set to be on the plane.


Five Iranians who were convicted or charged with nonviolent crimes will be freed in the exchange, the official said. Two of the Iranians who do not have legal status in the U.S. will return to Doha. 


The U.S is also moving $6 billion of Iranian funds frozen in South Korea to a Qatari bank as part of the deal. The funds will be available for Iran on a limited use and only for humanitarian transactions such as food, medicine and agricultural products.


“These are Iranian funds, payments made by South Korea to Iran for purchases of oil years ago, including during the last administration,” an official said. “These funds will be available only for transactions for humanitarian goods with vetted third party non-Iranian venders.”


If Iran tries to divert the funds or use them for another use other than humanitarian purchases, “we will take action to lock up the funds,” the official added.


The administration has received pushback for the deal, with Republicans expressing “deep concern” about potential threats to national security from the agreement.


“This has been a process that has been going on for a very difficult negotiation really over a period of years,” the official said, adding that some offers during negotiations were “flat out rejected” by the Biden administration.


A new set of sanctions against actors in Iran will also be issued Monday.


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