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Biden Administration Issues Sanctions Waiver to Facilitate Release of American Detainees in Iran

SanctionsBiden Administration Issues Sanctions Waiver to Facilitate Release of American Detainees in Iran

The Biden administration has allowed for the release of five American citizens held in Iran by issuing a blanket waiver to international banks. This waiver permits the transfer of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar without the risk of U.S. sanctions. As part of the deal, the administration has also agreed to release five Iranian citizens detained in the United States.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed off on these sanctions waivers, although Congress was only informed about the decision later. The agreement had been previously announced, but this notification marked the first acknowledgment that five Iranian prisoners would be released as part of the deal. Their names have not been disclosed.

The decision to issue the waiver has faced criticism from Republicans and others who argue that it will bolster the Iranian economy while Iran continues to pose a growing threat to U.S. troops and Middle East allies. Senator Chuck Grassley criticized it as “ridiculous,” and Senator Tom Cotton accused Biden of “paying ransom to the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism.”

The waiver ensures that European, Middle Eastern, and Asian banks can convert the frozen money in South Korea and transfer it to Qatar’s central bank without violating U.S. sanctions. This transfer of $6 billion was a crucial component of the prisoner release deal, which led to the transfer of four of the five American detainees from Iranian jails to house arrest last month. The fifth detainee was already under house arrest.

Due to concerns about potential U.S. sanctions, some European countries had been hesitant to participate in the transfer. Blinken’s waiver aims to address these concerns and facilitate the detainees’ release, which is expected to happen as early as next week.

The American prisoners include Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi, and Morad Tahbaz, among others, who have been held in Iran on various charges. In return for their release, the U.S. has committed to releasing five Iranian nationals held in the United States and allowing the transfer of the $6 billion in restricted Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar for humanitarian trade.

This sanctions waiver applies to financial institutions in South Korea, Germany, Ireland, Qatar, and Switzerland and covers transactions involving previously penalized Iranian entities. It allows the funds to be transferred for humanitarian purposes in accordance with U.S. government guidance.

By FCCT Editorial Team

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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