Biden Admin Clears the Way for Prisoner Swap Deal With Iran, Lifts Freeze on $6 Billion in Iranian Funds – Gulf Insider

The Biden administration informed Congress on Monday that it has taken concrete steps to carry out a prisoner exchange with Iran, issuing a waiver that will give Tehran access to $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue that had been blocked by U.S. sanctions, according to a State Department document sent to Congress and obtained by NBC News.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week issued a sweeping waiver to international banks allowing the transfer of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar without the threat of U.S. sanctions, according to the State Department report notifying Congress of its decision. Iran will then be permitted to use the funds to buy food, medicine or other humanitarian items allowed under U.S. economic sanctions. 

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In addition, the administration told lawmakers it would free five Iranian nationals under detention in the U.S. in exchange for five Americans held in Iran, according to the document.

The move is the latest sign that the prisoner exchange is moving ahead.

The text of Blinken’s waiver decision, which was first reported by The Associated Press, says that “the United States has committed to release five Iranian nationals currently detained in the United States and to permit the transfer of approximately $6 billion in Iranian funds held in restricted accounts in the ROK (Republic of Korea) to restricted accounts in Qatar, where the funds will be available only for humanitarian trade.”

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Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in a statement Monday night that “no individuals have been or will be released into U.S. custody this week.”

“This remains a sensitive and ongoing process,” she said. “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.”

NBC News first reported on the outlines of the prisoner exchange negotiations in February, and U.S. officials have acknowledged the deal in recent weeks.

“Allowing these funds to be transferred from restricted Iranian accounts held in the ROK to accounts in Qatar for humanitarian trade is necessary to facilitate the release of these U.S. citizens,” the State Department report said. “However, this transfer will provide limited benefit to Iran, since the funds may only be used for humanitarian trade after they are transferred to the destination accounts.”

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The deal has already come under fierce criticism from Republicans in Congress and other skeptics, who say that the administration is rewarding Iran for imprisoning innocent Americans and that it will only encourage the regime to detain more foreigners. A similar prisoner exchange arrangement during the Obama administration, in which Iran was given access to blocked funds, also faced sharp criticism.

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Works as an in-house Writer at Gulf Tech Plus and focuses on the latest smart consumer electronics. Closely follows the latest trends in consumer IoT and how it affects our daily lives. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

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