US to place restrictions on unfrozen Iranian funds
The United States will maintain restrictions on $6 billion in seized Iranian assets set to be released as part of a prisoner swap deal, under which Tehran is expected to release five detained Americans.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby commented on the arrangement on Friday, telling reporters that the US would keep a close watch on where the resources are sent. He stressed that talks are ongoing, however, and that “the deal is not done.”
“Essentially, the funds can only be accessed for food, medicine, medical equipment that would not have a dual military use,” Kirby said, adding: “there will be a rigorous process of due diligence and standards applied with input from the US Treasury Department.”
The agreement was first reported by multiple media outlets earlier this week, which noted that in addition to unfreezing billions in Iranian funds, Washington would also release five Iranians currently locked in US prisons. President Joe Biden has reportedly approved the deal in principle.
The White House has confirmed that the five Americans in custody in Iran are now under house arrest, with four recently released from Tehran’s Evin Prison. Three of the detainees were identified as Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, and Emad Shargi, while the others have requested anonymity.
The frozen Iranian assets are stored in a restricted account in South Korea. Under the deal, they would reportedly be transferred to Qatar, where Iran could recover the funds. Kirby said there would be “no impediment” to that transaction, should an agreement be finalized.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken previously said a prisoner swap will not mean sanctions relief for Iran, insisting it would only receive its “own funds,” and that the assets would be limited to “humanitarian purposes.”
Tehran has repeatedly called for an end to US economic penalties ramped up under President Donald Trump, who withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal struck between Iran, the US and other world powers. While talks to resume the nuclear pact in exchange for sanctions relief have largely stalled, Kirby said the US would “welcome” any steps by Iran to scale down its nuclear program.
The emerging prisoner deal comes amid rising tensions in the Persian Gulf, where Washington has ordered a series of military deployments in recent weeks, including F-35 fighter jets, a guided-missile destroyer and other warships. Earlier this week, 3,000 American marines and sailors were stationed in the region to “deter” Iranian forces, the US Navy said, accusing Tehran of “harassment and seizures of merchant vessels.”