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Arrival of Five Americans Released in Qatar through $6 Billion Deal with Iran

Officials have affirmed that the recent deal to reunite families has not impacted America’s relationship with Iran, refuting concerns from Republicans who view it as a “ransom-like” arrangement. On September 18, five U.S. citizens who were previously detained in Iran were released and arrived in Qatar. A video showed the hostages descending the steps of the plane and being greeted by the U.S. Ambassador to Qatar. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed gratitude towards Qatar, as well as Switzerland, South Korea, and Oman, for their assistance in facilitating the exchange. He also reiterated the State Department’s warning to U.S. citizens, advising against travel to Iran due to the risk of kidnapping and arbitrary arrest. The Biden administration had earlier announced the release of the five U.S. citizens and two of their family members. The deal involving the release has been described as complex and fragile, but negotiations had been ongoing for some time. The agreement required the United States to grant a waiver of U.S. sanctions worth $6 billion in oil funds from South Korea to Doha for humanitarian purposes in exchange for granting clemency to five Iranians accused of crimes committed in the U.S. Iran had previously transferred the five U.S. prisoners from Evin Prison to house arrest in a Tehran hotel. The deal does not recognize the dual citizenship of the prisoners, although they possess dual Iranian-American citizenship. The Biden administration imposed new sanctions on the Iranian regime, targeting Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The new sanctions stem from Iran’s previous or ongoing detention of U.S. citizens and their misinformation about the whereabouts of FBI and CIA agent Robert Levinson. Since the Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018, frozen Iranian funds have been held in various countries, including China, South Korea, and Japan. Under the recent deal, selected banks will be able to convert and transfer frozen funds from South Korea to Qatar’s central bank, with the intention of using the funds for humanitarian purchases vetted by non-Iranian entities. The Treasury Department has established monitoring and due diligence standards to prevent money laundering and misuse of the funds. Critics argue that the deal sends the wrong message on U.S. foreign policy, suggesting that the Biden administration is effectively ransoming U.S. citizens.

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