U.S., Iran swap detainees after US$6 billion unfrozen

Five U.S. detainees were being taken to a Qatari aircraft to fly out of Iran on Monday in a swap for five Iranians detained in the U.S. thanks to a Doha-brokered deal between the arch foes that also unfroze US$6 billion of Tehran’s funds.

The Qatari plane was on standby after the U.S. and Iran were told, according to a source briefed on the matter, that the funds had been transferred to accounts in Qatar. “U.S. detainees are being transported to the Qatari jet,” the source said.


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A fourth U.S. citizen was also released into house arrest, while a fifth was already under house arrest. Their identities have not been disclosed.

Iranian officials have named the five Iranians to be released by the U.S. as Mehrdad Moin-Ansari, Kambiz Attar-Kashani, Reza Sarhangpour-Kafrani, Amin Hassanzadeh and Kaveh Afrasiabi. Two Iranian officials previously said that Afrasiabi would remain in the United States but had not mentioned others.

Ties between Washington and Tehran have been boiling since Donald Trump, a Republican, pulled the U.S. out of a nuclear deal between Iran and global powers when he was president in 2018. Reaching another nuclear deal has gained little traction since, as Biden prepares for the 2024 U.S. election.

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As a first step in the deal, Washington waived sanctions to allow the transfer of US$6 billion in Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar. The funds were blocked in South Korea, normally one of Iran’s largest oil customers, when Washington imposed sweeping financial sanctions on Tehran and the cash could not be transferred.

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