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US releasing $6 billion, 5 Iranians in prisoner swap deal with Iran: Report

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Los Angeles. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
September 11, 2023

The Biden administration has issued a waiver for international banks to transfer $6 billion in frozen funds from South Korea to Iran as part of a prisoner swap with the Iranian government.

According to The Associated Press, the prisoner swap agreement will allow five American citizens to be released from detainment in Iran. In exchange, the United States will release five Iranian citizens currently held in the U.S. and will allow $6 billion to be transferred by international banks to Iran without the threat of sanctions.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken approved the sanction waivers at the end of last week, just one month after both U.S. and Iranian officials announced that an agreement in principle had been reached.

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While the outline of the deal, including the waiver pertaining to U.S. sanctions, had been announced previously, Congress was not notified until Monday of the Biden administration’s decision to sign off on the economic sanctions.

Monday’s notification to Congress also was the first time the Biden administration announced that the release of five Iranian prisoners would be part of the prisoner swap agreement. The Iranian prisoners included in the agreement have not yet been named.

According to The Associated Press, the American prisoners included in the prisoner swap agreement include Morad Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist who received a 10-year sentence in Iran after being arrested in 2018, Siamak Namazi, who was charged for spying and sentenced to 10 years in prison after being detained in 2015, and Emad, Sharghi, a venture capitalist who was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran. The remaining two American prisoners have not yet been identified.

“To facilitate their release, the United States has committed to release five Iranian nationals currently held in the United States and to permit the transfer of approximately $6 billion in restricted Iranian funds held in (South Korea) to restricted accounts in Qatar, where the funds will be available only for humanitarian trade,” Blinken wrote in a statement.

This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.