Five U.S. citizens left Iran and landed in Doha on Monday in a prisoner swap for five Iranians held in the United States and the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds, in what has been declared as a diplomatic victory for Iran.
“Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement, shortly before the U.S. detainees descended the stairs of a Qatari jet to be embraced by U.S. diplomats.
Separately, Iran’s Press TV said the five Iranians detained by the United States and charged with committing crimes had been freed, an apparent reference to their being granted clemency. Two arrived in Doha, U.S. and Iranian officials said.
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It was unclear whether the exchange might bring progress on the many issues that divide the two nations, including Iran’s nuclear program, its support for regional Shi’ite militias, the presence of U.S. troops in the Gulf and U.S. sanctions on Iran.
In the short term, the deal is likely to be viewed as a success for Iran. “The deal is definitely a bigger win for Iran,” lranian academic and political analyst, Mohammad Morandi, told CGTN. “The Americans were forced to concede quite a bit. They had to give up prisoners and give up assets it had frozen. All Iranian assets whether in South Korea, Iraq or wherever, totalling billions of dollars are now unfrozen and back in Iranian hands.”
Cooperation and conflict
The deal, after months of talks in Qatar, removes a major irritant between the U.S., which brands Tehran a sponsor of terrorism, and Iran, which calls Washington the “Great Satan.”
A senior U.S. administration official said the deal did not change Washington’s adversarial relationship with Tehran, but the door was open for diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear program.
“If we see an opportunity, we will explore it but right now, I’ve really nothing to talk about,” the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Morandi added that tensions are likely to remain on Iran’s side. “The U.S. sees it as an exceptional country with exceptional rights,” he said. “It sees its sanctions as the will of the international community and Iran doesn’t accept that. This is why Iran’s negotiating team was very tough. They basically forced the Americans to accept that all of the money had to be freed and the prisoner swap had to be proportionate.”
The U.S. dual citizens released include Siamak Namazi, 51, and Emad Sharqi, 59, both businessmen, and Morad Tahbaz, 67, an environmentalist who also holds British nationality.
The identities of the fourth and fifth U.S. citizens were not disclosed at their request given their desire for privacy.
Iranian officials have named the five Iranians released by the U.S. as Mehrdad Moin-Ansari, Kambiz Attar-Kashani, Reza Sarhangpour-Kafrani, Amin Hassanzadeh and Kaveh Afrasiabi.
Iranian media identified the two men who landed at Doha as Moin-Ansari and Sarhangpour-Kafrani. Two Iranian officials previously said that Afrasiabi would remain in the United States but had not mentioned others.
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