The U.S. government, under the Biden administration, has brokered a deal with Iran that involves the release of five U.S. citizens in return for releasing some convicted Iranian nationals and making available billions in Iranian oil revenue that had been frozen due to sanctions.
The New York Times details that the five Iranian-American dual citizens, held for allegedly spying, have been moved to house arrest in a hotel overseen by Iranian officials. Jared Genser, representing the imprisoned Americans, said this move could be the first step towards their eventual release but added the future remains uncertain.
In exchange, the U.S. will release Iranian nationals convicted of bypassing U.S. sanctions. Additionally, close to $6 billion of Iran’s assets in South Korea will be redirected to an account in Qatar's central bank. According to sources who spoke to the Times, Qatar will manage these funds, permitting Iran to use them solely for humanitarian needs.
The release of the American citizens hinges on the successful transfer of these funds to the Qatari bank. Once this is achieved, the freed individuals will be transported to Doha, Qatar, acknowledging the nation's pivotal role in the negotiation process.
This negotiation follows another controversial decision last year when President Biden approved the release of Viktor Bout, a Russian individual convicted on terrorism charges, in a swap for WNBA player Brittney Griner.