By granting a broad waiver to international banks so they can transfer $6 billion in frozen Iranian money from South Korea to Qatar without worrying about U.S. sanctions, the Biden administration has paved the path for the future release of five American citizens who are now incarcerated in Iran. Also, as part of the agreement, the government has agreed to free five Iranian nationals detained in the country.
According to a U.S. official speaking to CBS News, Secretary of State Antony Blinken approved the sanctions waivers last week, one week after U.S. and Iranian officials claimed an agreement in principle had been reached.
According to a congressional notification that The Associated Press was able to receive, Congress was not notified of the waiver decision until Monday. The waiver is one of the last requirements before the agreement can be finalized, the U.S. official said, adding that the administration had informed Congress of the decision.
The swap’s general parameters had already been disclosed, and the waiver was anticipated. Yet with this statement, the government officially announced for the first time that five Iranian inmates would be freed as part of the agreement. The detainees’ names are unknown.
Conservatives and others who believe the agreement would help Iran’s economy at a time when Iran poses a rising threat to American soldiers and Mideast allies are sure to criticize President Biden for the waiver.
Funds Unfrozen for Humanitarian Use
European, Middle Eastern, and Asian institutions will not breach U.S. sanctions by converting the frozen cash in South Korea and delivering them to the national bank of Qatar, where they will be kept for Iran to use for the purchase of humanitarian supplies.
The $6 billion payout was a crucial part of the prisoner release agreement that resulted in the removal of four of the five American detainees under house arrest from Iranian prisons last month. The fifth inmate had already been placed under home arrest.
Some European nations have declined to take part in the transfer because of the multiple U.S. restrictions placed on foreign institutions who participate in transactions that benefit Iran. The purpose of Blinken’s waiver is to relieve their worries about the possibility of US penalties.
The American prisoners include Morad Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent who was detained in 2018 and also received a 10-year sentence, Siamak Namazi, a venture capitalist who was detained in 2015 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison on internationally criticized spying charges, and Emad Sharghi.
The identities of the fourth and fifth inmates remained unknown.
Members of Sharghi’s family admitted to holding their breath during the tense negotiations to return the Americans home to “Face the Nation” last month.
Banks and other financial institutions in South Korea, Germany, Ireland, Qatar, and Switzerland are covered by the waiver of the restrictions.