Qatari Plane Awaits in Iran for Prisoner Swap with the US
A Qatari plane is currently stationed in Iran, ready to carry US citizens who have been detained there as part of a prisoner swap. This development comes after months of negotiations between the United States and Iran, with Qatar mediating the talks. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed that the Qatari jet is on standby in Iran to transport five US citizens and two relatives to Doha.
The prisoner swap deal involves unfreezing Iranian funds worth $6 billion in exchange for the release of five US detainees. Tehran has confirmed that the frozen funds in South Korea will be in Iran’s possession on Monday, triggering the swap. The five Americans, who hold dual nationality, are expected to depart from Tehran and head to Doha before flying to the United States. In return, five Iranians held in the US will be released to travel back to Iran. However, it has been reported that one of the detainees may remain in the United States.
The announcement of this deal on August 10 was met with relief as it removes a significant source of tension between Washington and Tehran. Despite this positive development, the two countries still have deep-rooted disagreements on various issues, including Iran’s nuclear ambitions, its regional influence, US sanctions, and America’s military presence in the Gulf.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry has expressed its commitment to ensuring the smooth progress of all procedures related to the deal. The ministry is working closely with all parties involved to resolve the matter once and for all.
Among the US dual citizens set to be released are Siamak Namazi, 51, and Emad Sharqi, 59, both businessmen, as well as Morad Tahbaz, 67, an environmentalist who also holds British nationality. These individuals were recently released from prison and placed under house arrest. The identities of the remaining two US citizens have not been disclosed.
The five Iranians to be released by the US have been identified as Mehrdad Moin-Ansari, Kambiz Attar-Kashani, Reza Sarhangpour-Kafrani, Amin Hassanzadeh, and Kaveh Afrasiabi. However, it is expected that Afrasiabi will remain in the United States.
As a crucial first step in the agreement, the US waived sanctions to facilitate the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar. These funds had been blocked in South Korea due to US sanctions. As part of the deal, Qatar has agreed to monitor how Iran spends the funds, ensuring that they are used for non-sanctioned humanitarian goods such as food and medicine.
The transfer of Iran’s funds has faced criticism from US Republicans, who argue that President Joe Biden is essentially paying a ransom for the release of US citizens. The White House, however, has defended the deal.
Relations between Washington and Tehran have been strained since former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear deal with Iran and global powers in 2018. Despite efforts to reach a new nuclear agreement, progress has been limited, particularly as Biden prepares for the upcoming 2024 US election.
In conclusion, the Qatari plane waiting in Iran marks a significant step towards the release of US citizens detained in Iran. The prisoner swap deal, mediated by Qatar, aims to ease tensions between the United States and Iran. While this development is a positive one, it is important to recognize that there are still underlying issues that need to be addressed between the two nations.