Joe Biden Gives Iran $6 Billion In Unfrozen Assets Plus Prisoners In Exchange For Five Jailed Americans

On Thursday, the Biden Administration reportedly struck a deal with Iran to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian financial assets and release a “handful” of Iranian nationals jailed for violating U.S. sanctions in exchange for five Americans taken prisoner by Iran on highly dubious charges of espionage...

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he Iranian mission to the United Nations on Thursday said, “Iran’s frozen funds in South Korea will be unblocked and transferred to Qatar,” apparently referring to the $6 billion sum. U.S. sources who spoke to the far-left New York Times publication and Reuters confirmed the financial aspects of the deal.

The Times‘ sources identified the five American prisoners as Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi, and Morad Tahbaz, plus two others the Biden Administration did not immediately name. The two other prisoners are reportedly a “scientist” and a “businessman.” One of those two individuals was arrested by Iran in March, stalling the deal to release the others until Iran agreed to include the new detainee as well.

The best-known of the named three is Siamak Namazi, 51, arrested in October 2015 while he was visiting family in Tehran. Namazi was a supporter of the Iranian regime and advocate of closer U.S.-Iran relations who might have fallen victim to a power struggle between secular and theocratic factions within the government.

Siamak Namazi’s elderly father Baquer was also held captive by Iran and was released in October 2022, after seven years in prison, for health reasons. Both Namazis were convicted of “collaborating with a hostile power,” namely the United States, in a secret 2016 “trial.”

In July 2022, Namazi wrote a NYT op-ed from prison entitled “I’m An American, Why Have I Been Left to Rot as a Hostage of Iran?” He said he felt compelled to write the piece because “the Biden Administration’s approach to rescuing Americans in distress in Iran has failed spectacularly so far.”

“The ugly reality is that Iran will free its captives only if offered sufficient incentives,” Namazi said, a prediction that would seem to have been proven accurate by the gigantic payoff Iran was ultimately given to secure his release.

In fact, Namazi in July 2022 described an Iranian proposal that seemed fairly close to what the Biden Administration agreed to just over a year later. He accused President Joe Biden of dragging his feet on sealing the deal because he wanted to use the frozen Iranian assets as leverage to restart nuclear deal talks.

Siamak Namazi mentioned Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi in his editorial, in addition to his then-imprisoned father Baquer. Tahbaz, 67, is a British-American conservationist with Iranian roots arrested during a regime crackdown on environmental activists in 2018. He was sentenced to ten years in prison on espionage charges, briefly released to house arrest in 2022, and then marched back into prison.

“I think being told since Biden has taken office that our loved ones are a priority, and then seeing no action — it is hard to hold hope,” Morad’s daughter Tara Tahbaz said in April 2023. She said her father was suffering from prostate cancer and contracted Wuhan coronavirus three times while in prison.

Emad Shargi, 58, was arrested in April 2018 for no clear reason after he and his wife Bahareh decided to move to Tehran, their childhood home. The Iranian government later claimed Emad was convicted in absentia on murky espionage charges.

Bahareh was released, but her husband was imprisoned until December 2018. The Iranian regime kept his passport, so she was obliged to return to the United States without him. Emad was arrested again in November 2020 and held until now.

None of the five American prisoners has actually been released yet at press time – they were merely transferred from the hideous Evin prison to house arrest.

“While this is an encouraging step, these U.S. citizens — Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Shargi, and two Americans who at this time wish to remain private — should have never been detained in the first place,” said National Security Council (NSC) spokeswoman Adrienne Watson.

“We will continue to monitor their condition as closely as possible. Of course, we will not rest until they are all back home in the United States. Until that time, negotiations for their eventual release remain ongoing and are delicate. We will, therefore, have little in the way of details to provide about the state of their house arrest or about our efforts to secure their freedom,” Watson said.

Fox News on Thursday quoted “a source familiar with the situation” who said, “We expect this process to take weeks before they return home to the U.S.”

“While I hope this will be the first step to their ultimate release, this is at best the beginning of the end and nothing more. But there are simply no guarantees about what happens from here,” lawyer Jared Genser said.

The prisoner swap deal was reportedly mediated by Oman, Qatar, and Switzerland. The ransom payment will take the form of about $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue that has been frozen in South Korean banks ever since former President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018. Iran accused South Korea of taking delivery of Iranian oil but refusing to pay for it.

According to Iranian state media reports, the money from South Korea will be transferred to an account in the central bank of Qatar. The funds will purportedly be managed by the Qatari government, which will allow Iran to make withdrawals only to pay for “humanitarian purchases.” The American hostages will not be allowed to leave Iran until the funds transfer to Qatar is complete, which could take four to six weeks.

“The release of the Iranian funds is likely to be contentious in the United States. Republicans have repeatedly condemned the idea of allowing Iran to have direct access to its frozen financial assets, which could end up in the hands of its elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and be used to fund and arm militants across the Middle East,” the NYT observed.

The Associated Press (AP) had some theories about the Iranians imprisoned in the U.S. for violating sanctions who might be released as part of the deal:

American officials declined to comment on who or how many Iranian prisoners might be released in a final agreement. But Iranian media in the past identified several prisoners with cases tied to violations of US export laws and restrictions on doing business with Iran. The alleged violations include the transfer of money through Venezuela and sales of dual-use equipment that the US alleges could be used in Iran’s military and nuclear programs. Iran has been enriching uranium and stockpiling it as part of its advancing nuclear program.

The AP noted the deal comes at a moment of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States, which has recently discussed stationing American troops on commercial ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz to prevent Iran from seizing them. Several sources reported the prisoner swap could be an overture for the Biden Administration to resume stalled nuclear negotiations with Iran. ✪

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