The Biden administration is reportedly nearing an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding a number of American citizens held in Iran. The potential deal would send $6 billion to the Middle Eastern country and reportedly release five Iranians from American custody.
The White House has considered unfreezing Iranian assets affected by American sanctions. The deal would see $6 billion held by South Korea transferred to Qatar, which enjoys positive relations with both the U.S. and Iran. On paper, the agreement would allow Iran to use the money for humanitarian supplies and not for military goods or technology.
The five Iranians held by the United States would also be released.
Congress was informed of the tentative agreement Monday, on the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The agreement would have several shades of complexity. First, official American policy opposes trading for hostages. Secondly, the Iranian economy has struggled in recent years. Such a deal could infuse cash into the Islamic theocracy during a difficult time in its history.
There’s NO downside for dictatorships, like Iran or Russia, to take Americans hostage.
With Biden, these regimes always get a good deal in the end and that's why they'll keep doing it. pic.twitter.com/8Vk5FGldjk
— Rep. Mike Waltz (@michaelgwaltz) September 12, 2023
Should this agreement proceed, it would not be the first time in recent years that the United States assented to what amounts to a prisoner exchange. The Biden White House agreed to a deal to release WNBA player Brittney Griner for a Russian national in December 2022.
Griner had been arrested in February of last year on marijuana charges and sentenced to nine years in a penal colony.
The United States agreed to exchange the basketball player for arms dealer Victor Bout. Bout gained notoriety for selling arms in Africa, Asia and South America, including to warlords. Bout had been in U.S. custody since 2008 and was originally slated for release in 2029.
Bout’s nickname was the “Merchant of Death.”
Some conservatives criticized Biden for not pressing to release former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is currently serving a 16-year sentence in Russia. Moscow accused Whelan of espionage.