After being held captive in Iran for an extended period, the Americans have finally arrived in the United States upon their release.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans detained for years in Iran arrived home Tuesday after being freed as part of a politically risky deal that saw President Biden agree to the release of nearly $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets.
Biden received abundant gratitude from the families of the Americans who were freed after successful negotiations. However, he faced criticism from Republican presidential rivals and other opponents due to the financial agreement made with one of America’s major adversaries.
Biden stated in a released statement that today, five Americans who were unjustly detained in Iran are finally returning home. This announcement came as the plane carrying the group arrived in Doha, Qatar on Monday.
According to an anonymous U.S. official, a plane transporting the Americans arrived in the United States during the early hours of Tuesday. The official’s identity remains undisclosed due to the lack of authorization to publicly address the issue.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, known for his strict policies, proposed that the exchange could potentially serve as a humanitarian gesture between Iran and the United States during his presence at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Raisi expressed that it can certainly aid in establishing trust when speaking to reporters.
However, tensions are almost certain to remain high between the U.S. and Iran, which are locked in disputes over Tehran’s nuclear program and other matters. Iran says the program is peaceful, but it now enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.
The release of the prisoners occurred while there was a significant increase in American military presence in the Persian Gulf. There is a chance that U.S. troops might be deployed to board and protect commercial vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial route for 20% of global oil transportation.
After the plane slowed to a stop in Doha, three of the prisoners – Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi and Morad Tahbaz – emerged.
They embraced Timmy Davis, the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, and other individuals. Afterwards, the trio linked arms and proceeded towards the airport.
Namazi expressed his gratitude in a statement, acknowledging that he owes his freedom to those who refused to let the world forget about him.
He expressed gratitude for acting as his advocate when he was unable to speak up and for ensuring that his voice was heard even when he managed to shout from within the unyielding confines of Evin Prison.
The other two Americans who were released were not immediately identified by the United States. They were set free as part of a swap involving five Iranians held in U.S. custody and the resolution of the issue regarding frozen Iranian assets owed by South Korea. The Biden administration assured that the five Iranians who were released do not pose any danger to U.S. national security.
Effie Namazi and Vida Tahbaz, who are relatives of the imprisoned Americans, were also passengers on the plane. They had previously faced travel restrictions in Iran.
Nasser Kanaani, the spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, stated that two Iranian prisoners will remain in the United States. However, according to Nour News, a website with alleged ties to Iran’s security establishment, two of the Iranian prisoners were in Doha as part of the exchange.
Nour News identified the two in Doha as: Mehrdad Ansari, an Iranian sentenced by the U.S. to 63 months in prison in 2021 for obtaining equipment that could be used in missiles, electronic warfare, nuclear weapons and other military gear, and Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, an Iranian charged in 2021 over allegedly unlawfully exporting laboratory equipment to Iran.
South Korea had a debt of $5.9 billion to Iran, which was related to the purchase of oil before the U.S. implemented sanctions in 2019. This amount has now been paid in cash to Iran.
The United States asserts that, after reaching Qatar, the funds will be kept in accounts with limitations, exclusively intended for the purchase of humanitarian necessities like medicine and food. These financial transactions are presently permitted under U.S. sanctions aimed at the Islamic Republic due to its progress in nuclear development.
Most Iranian government officials have agreed with this statement, although a few hard-liners have claimed, without providing proof, that there will be no limitations on how Tehran can utilize the funds.
The agreement has already exposed Biden to new criticism from Republicans and others who argue that the administration is aiding the Iranian economy while Iran poses an increasing danger to American troops and allies in the Middle East. This could potentially impact his chances of being re-elected.
Donald Trump, the previous President and current primary Republican contender, expressed his disapproval of the deal on the Truth Social platform, describing it as “completely absurd.” Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, criticized Biden for encouraging and rewarding Tehran’s negative actions.
After their release, Biden had a phone call with the families of the freed Americans, which the White House described as an emotional conversation.
Biden called for additional details regarding the whereabouts of Bob Levinson, an American citizen who disappeared many years ago. The Biden administration also declared new penalties against former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence.
The charges against the five Americans have been criticized as unfounded by the U.S. government, the families of the prisoners, and activists.
The Americans included Namazi, who was detained in 2015 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison on spying charges; Sharghi, a venture capitalist sentenced to 10 years; and Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent who was arrested in 2018 and also received a 10-year sentence.
Neda, Sharghi’s sister, expressed her eagerness to embrace her brother tightly and never release him in a statement.
“I cannot reword.”
Iran and the United States have engaged in a series of prisoner exchanges since the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy and the subsequent hostage crisis during the Islamic Revolution.
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Jo from Doha, Qatar. Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi and Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Matthew Lee, Paul Haven, Aamer Madhani and Michelle Phillips in New York; and Eric Tucker and Farnoush Amiri in Washington contributed to this report.
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