Five U.S. detainees were flown out of Iran on Monday in a swap for five Iranians held in the U.S. The rare deal, mediated by Qatar, also resulted in the unfreezing of $6 billion of Tehran’s funds. A plane sent by Qatar transported the five U.S. citizens and two of their relatives out of Tehran after the funds were transferred to accounts in Doha. Simultaneously, two of the five Iranians arrived in Qatar, while three chose not to return to Iran. The months-long negotiations in Qatar resolved a major issue between the U.S. and Iran, although they remain divided on other matters. The deal does not change the adversarial relationship between Washington and Tehran, but it leaves room for diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear program. The five American detainees with dual nationality will travel to Doha and then proceed to the U.S. Two of the released Iranians will return to Iran, two will stay in the U.S. at their request, and one will join his family in a third country. The funds, previously blocked in South Korea due to U.S. sanctions, will be available to Tehran on Monday. Qatar will ensure that the cash is used for humanitarian purposes and not for items under U.S. sanctions.
Qatar, a wealthy Gulf Arab energy producer, has been actively involved in international diplomacy and hosted several rounds of talks between Iranian and U.S. negotiators. The transfer of Iran’s funds has faced criticism from U.S. Republicans, who argue that it amounts to paying a ransom for U.S. citizens. However, the White House has defended the deal. The U.S. dual citizens to be released include businessmen Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharqi, and environmentalist Morad Tahbaz. They were previously released from prison and put under house arrest. Another U.S. citizen was also released into house arrest, while the identity of the fifth detainee remains undisclosed. The five Iranians to be released by the U.S. are Mehrdad Moin-Ansari, Kambiz Attar-Kashani, Reza Sarhangpour-Kafrani, Amin Hassanzadeh, and Kaveh Afrasiabi. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have been high since the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018. Reaching a new nuclear deal has made little progress, with the upcoming 2024 U.S. election on the horizon. As part of the agreement, the U.S. waived sanctions to allow the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar. These funds had been blocked in South Korea due to financial sanctions imposed by the U.S.
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