US makes deal with Iran to swap American prisoners for $6B in funds

US makes deal with Iran to swap five American prisoners for $6billion in frozen funds

The Biden administration has made a deal with Iran to release $6 billion in frozen funds in exchange for the release of five American prisoners.

The agreement issuing a blanket waiver for international banks to transfer sanctioned Iranian money from South Korea to Qatar without fear of U.S. sanctions includes the release of five Iranian citizens held in the U.S. 

The Iranian-Americans include businessmen Siamak Namazi, 51, and Emad Shargi, 58, along with environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 67.

Businessman Emad Shargi (left) and British-born environmentalist Morad Tahbaz are two of the U.S. citizens transferred from prison to house arrest before a possible deal

The family of Siamak Namazi, 51, said they were grateful he was out of prison but that they would not rest until he was home after eight years in captivity

Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed off on the deal late last week, but Congress was not notified of the decision until Monday, according to the notification, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Last month four of the five detainees were moved from Iranian jails to house arrest in a hotel in the controversial deal described as a ransom note by Republican critics. 

One was already under house arrest. 

The waiver will draw more backlash from the GOP that it will boost the Iranian economy at a time when Iran poses a growing threat to U.S. troops and Mideast allies.

The waiver means that European, Middle Eastern and Asian banks will not run afoul of U.S. sanctions in converting the money frozen in South Korea and transferring it to Qatar´s central bank, where it will be held for Iran to use for the purchase of humanitarian goods.

The transfer of the $6 billion was the critical element in the prisoner release deal, which saw four of the five American detainees transferred from Iranian jails into house arrest last month. 

The fifth detainee had already been under house arrest.

Due to numerous U.S. sanctions on foreign banks that engage in transactions aimed at benefitting Iran, several European countries had balked at participating in the transfer. 

Blinken´s waiver is aimed at easing their concerns about any risk of U.S. sanctions.

This is breaking news. More to follow 

A view of the entrance of Evin prison in Tehran, Iran, where the Americans were held

The Biden administration has cleared the way for the release of five American citizens detained in Iran by issuing a blanket waiver for international banks to transfer $6 billion in frozen Iranian money from South Korea to Qatar without fear of U.S. sanctions 

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