This prisoner swap, or ‘consular deal’, represents a delicate diplomatic move and we can expect the Biden administration will run with the good news that comes with it.
“The president is making five families whole again and that’s what this is about,” one senior administration official told me last night.
It’s delicate because it involves a lot of money and it’s delicate because the US doesn’t want anyone to think the deal reflects some sort of shift in America’s position on Iran.
“This deal has not changed our relationship with Iran in any way. Iran is an adversary and a state sponsor of terrorism,” the administration official said.
Read more:Iran releases five detainees, including British citizen
Image: Emad Shargi, Siamak Namazi and Morad Tahbaz, who also holds British citizenship. Pic: @FreeTheNamazis
The key controversy surrounds the $6bn worth of Iranian cash currently being held in South Korean banks.
As part of the deal, the US has issued a specific waiver to its sanctions over Iran, allowing the funds to be transferred to Qatar for Iran to use for humanitarian purposes.
More on Iran
“Medicine, medical devices, food and agriculture. That’s it,” the senior White House official said.
Critics of the deal suggest it rewards Iran for taking prisoners and that there is naivety in thinking Iran won’t use the money for nefarious purposes.
Biden’s team pushed back, with a senior administration official explaining: “First, these are not [American] taxpayer dollars. This is not a payment of any kind. No funds enter Iran ever, nor do any funds get paid to Iranian companies or entities.”
Read more on this story:Iran’s president says his govt will decide how it will spend money
Image: Roxanne Tahbaz holds a picture of her father Morad Tahbaz during a protest outside the Foreign Office in London
Crucially, for Iran, the money is more accessible to them in Qatar than it is in South Korea, but the plan is that it can’t ever enter Iran itself. Instead it can be released by Qatar to pay a non-Iranian company for humanitarian goods which then go to Iran.
“If Iran tries to divert the funds or use them for anything other than the limited humanitarian purposes authorised, we’ll take action to lock up the funds,” the official said.
Source : Sky News