The five Iranian-Americans released by Iran in the much-publicized prisoner swap have arrived in the United States. The plane landed at around a quarter to five in the morning (local time) at a military airport near Washington DC.
The identities of three of the released Americans have been released. These are the two businessmen Siamak Namazi (51) and Emad Shargi (59) and environmental activist Morad Tahbaz (67). Namazi was arrested in Iran in 2015, the two others in 2018. All three were accused of espionage. At the request of the family, the identities of the fourth and fifth released prisoners have not been released.
The deal was negotiated in and by Qatar for months. Delegations from both countries sat there in separate hotels a short distance from each other, with the mediators constantly shuttling back and forth. Washington cut diplomatic ties with Tehran in 1980 after storming and occupying the US embassy in the Iranian capital.
Qatar has expressed the hope that the US and Iran will also resume talks on issues such as the Iranian nuclear program. But analysts are skeptical and do not expect the detainee exchange to lead to a diplomatic breakthrough. Three of the five freed Iranians imprisoned in America have chosen not to fly back to Iran.
The condition for this prisoner exchange was that the US would release frozen Iranian assets of 6 billion dollars. The money was tied up in South Korea, which buys a lot of oil from Iran. The prisoner swap was able to proceed after the money was transferred from Seoul to accounts in the Qatari capital Doha.
According to the agreement, the released Iranian funds must be spent on humanitarian aid and may not be spent on the Iranian nuclear program and the possible development of nuclear weapons.
Shortly after the prisoner exchange, the US immediately announced new sanctions against Iran, targeting the country’s former president Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. It has not been announced what kind of sanctions they will be. President Biden has declared new punitive measures due to his involvement in the wrongful detention of Robert Levinson, among others, and the lack of answers surrounding that case.
The retired FBI agent disappeared from the Iranian island of Kish in 2007. After a career with the FBI, Levinson started working as a private investigator. Iran has always said the country had nothing to do with his disappearance, the Americans say he was taken hostage by Iranian secret services and probably died there in captivity.
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