US to Release $6 Billion in Frozen Iranian Funds in Exchange for Prisoner Swap

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The Biden administration reached a deal with Iran that involves the exchange of prisoners and the release of $6 billion in Iranian funds.

The deal stipulates that Iran will free five American citizens who are detained in Iran, and the U.S. will release five Iranians held in the U.S.

The agreement creates a blanket exemption to allow the transfer of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar, without having to worry about violating U.S. sanctions. The United States considers Iran a state-sponsored terrorist.

The notification obtained by The Associated Press shows that Secretary of State Antony Blinken approved the deal at the end of last week. However, Congress wasn’t notified until Monday – the 22nd anniversary date of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Transferring $6 billion to the Iranian government was the key element of the prisoner’s release deal that saw four out of five American prisoners transferred from Iranian jails and placed under house arrest in Iran last month. The fifth detainee was already under house arrest.

Due to the numerous U.S. Sanctions on foreign banks that engage in transactions that benefit Iran, many European countries refused to participate in the transfer. Blinken’s exemption is intended to ease their fears about the possibility of U.S. sanctions.

The deal has already started to attract some criticism. Behnam Taleblu, senior fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who is focused on Iranian security, said that releasing funds would “only feed Tehran’s desire to continue taking hostages.”

As the recent case of a Swedish diplomat shows, dual nationals and foreigners are not the sole targets. Tehran intends to even extort officials from foreign governments! He said.

“In fact, less than one year after its founding, the Islamic Republic has shown the world that it is willing to take hostages. Even worse, releasing the $6 billion will make people forget why the money was frozen. Even Obama’s administration, which signed into law the sanctions bills creating those escrow funds, didn’t trust Iran to stop financing its nuclear and military programs with oil money.”