U.S. Moves Forward With $6 Billion Iranian Prisoner Swap

Originally published September 12, 2023 6:00 pm PDT

The identities of the Iranian prisoners are unknown.

  • The Biden administration approved the release of five American citizens held in Iran in exchange for the release of five Iranian citizens.
  • The U.S. also issued a blanket waiver for the transfer of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar without sanctions.
  • Some European countries did not initially want to be involved in the transfer.
  • Countries involved in the sanctions waiver include South Korea, Germany, Ireland, Qatar, and Switzerland.
  • Amid criticism of the agreement, National Security Council Adrienne Watson stated, “What is being pursued here is an arrangement wherein we secure the release of 5 wrongfully held Americans.”
  • “This remains a sensitive and ongoing process. While this is a step in the process, no individuals have been or will be released into U.S. custody this week,” Watson continued.
  • “To facilitate their release, the United States has committed to release five Iranian nationals currently held in the United States and to permit the transfer of approximately $6 billion in restricted Iranian funds held in (South Korea) to restricted accounts in Qatar, where the funds will be available only for humanitarian trade,” Blinken wrote in a statement.
  • “I determine that it is in the national security interest of the United States to waive the imposition of sanctions” with “respect to foreign financial institutions under the primary jurisdiction of Germany, Ireland, Qatar, the Republic of Korea, and Switzerland that are notified directly in writing by the U.S. government, to the extent necessary for such institutions to engage in transactions occurring on or after August 9, 2023,” he continued.
  • Sanctions waivers are to be applied to transactions with the National Iranian Oil Company and Central Bank of Iran “ to transfer funds from accounts in the Republic of Korea to accounts in Switzerland and Germany and from accounts in Switzerland and Germany to accounts in Qatar, and to use the transferred funds for further humanitarian transactions in accordance with written guidance from the U.S. Government.”
  • American Faith reported in April 2023 that the U.S. Navy deployed a nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine to the Middle East.
  • The move followed a series of attacks by Iranian-backed militants on U.S. forces.
  • According to Commander Timothy Hawkins, the USS Florida “is capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles and is deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure regional maritime security and stability.”