Five American prisoners, who had long been sought for in a swap deal with Iran, were freed this Monday. Their release was part of an agreement that also unlocked almost $6 billion of Iran's frozen assets.
However, this hasn't signalled a complete thaw in relations: tensions between the U.S. and Iran are still simmering, especially with disagreements persisting over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Tehran maintains its nuclear endeavors are non-hostile, even though it is enriching uranium increasingly closer to weapon-grade capacity, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The report said:
The planned exchange has unfolded amid a major American military buildup in the Persian Gulf, with the possibility of U.S. troops boarding and guarding commercial ships in the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of all oil shipments pass.
“Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home,” President Joe Biden said in a statement released as the plane carrying the group from Tehran landed in Doha, Qatar.
After the plane slowed to a stop, three of the prisoners walked down the ramp and were greeted by the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, Timmy Davis. The former prisoners hugged the ambassador and others.
Details emerged that in addition to the American detainees, two family members from the U.S. also departed Tehran. This release followed reports confirming that nearly $6 billion of Iran's previously inaccessible assets had safely reached Qatar. The funds, amounting to €5.5 billion (equivalent to $5.9 billion), were confirmed by Iran's Central Bank chief, Mohammad Reza Farzin, who acknowledged the receipt on national television.
This landmark exchange is timed just before the U.N. General Assembly session in New York. Intriguingly, Iran's hard-line President, Ebrahim Raisi, is set to address the assembly.
However, the exchange has ruffled feathers stateside. Critics, including many Republicans, suggest Biden might inadvertently be bolstering Iran's economy, just as Tehran's stance appears increasingly challenging toward the U.S. and its Middle Eastern allies.
Historically, prisoner swaps between the U.S. and Iran have their roots dating back to the 1979's U.S. Embassy takeover. The West has often accused Iran of using foreign detainees as leverage, a claim Tehran denies.