On Monday, a Qatari plane was stationed in Iran to facilitate the exchange of five U.S. detainees for five Iranians held in the United States. This exchange was made possible through a Doha-mediated agreement that also resulted in the release of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds.
Funds totalling $6 billion, previously frozen, were confirmed to have been transferred to accounts in Qatar, according to an insider briefed on the situation. This development initiated an agreed-upon exchange process following extensive negotiations between Iran and the United States, two longstanding adversaries with disagreements over Iran’s nuclear objectives and other matters.
“A Qatari aircraft is on standby in Iran waiting to fly five soon-to-be-released U.S. citizens and two relatives to Doha on Monday morning,” the source said.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, confirmed that the $6 billion in funds, frozen initially in South Korea due to escalated U.S. sanctions on Iran in 2018, would be accessible to Tehran on Monday. As part of the agreement, Qatar will oversee the expenditure of these funds on humanitarian necessities, as reported by Reuters. At the time of this update, there has been no immediate public comment from the United States.
The five Americans with dual nationality are scheduled to depart from Doha for the United States, while in return, five Iranians detained in the U.S. will be set free. The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated that two released Iranians would return to Iran, two would remain in the U.S. as per their choice, and one detainee would reunite with his family in a third country.
As part of the agreement, Doha will oversee the expenditure of the unfrozen funds by Iran, ensuring they are allocated for humanitarian purposes like food and medicine and not for items subject to the U.S.
Sanctions. The transfer of these funds has faced criticism from U.S. Republicans, who argue that President Biden, a Democrat, is essentially paying a ransom to release U.S. citizens. However, the White House has stood by the deal, defending its merits.
The U.S. dual citizens set to be released include Siamak Namazi, 51, Emad Sharqi, 59, businessmen, and Morad Tahbaz, 67, an environmentalist with British nationality. They were recently transitioned from prison to house arrest, as reported by Reuters. A fourth U.S. citizen has also been placed under house arrest, while the identity of the fifth individual has not been disclosed.
Iranian officials have identified the five Iranians to be released by the U.S. as Mehrdad Moin-Ansari, Kambiz Attar-Kashani, Reza Sarhangpour-Kafrani, Amin Hassanzadeh, and Kaveh Afrasiabi. While it was mentioned that Kaveh Afrasiabi would stay in the United States, there was no prior mention of the status of the others.