After being held captive in Iran for an extended period, the Americans have now arrived in the United States following their release.
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Biden received abundant gratitude from the families of the Americans whose freedom was successfully negotiated. However, he faced criticism from Republican presidential rivals and other opponents due to the financial agreement made with a prominent adversary of the United States.
“I cannot reword”
According to an anonymous U.S. official, a plane transporting American individuals arrived in the United States during the early hours of Tuesday. The official’s anonymity is due to not being authorized to publicly disclose this information.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, known for his strict policies, proposed that the exchange could serve as a gesture of goodwill between Iran and the United States during the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Raisi expressed that it can certainly aid in establishing trust when speaking to reporters.
However, tensions are almost certain to remain high between the U.S. and Iran, which are locked in disputes over Tehran’s nuclear program and other matters. Iran says the program is peaceful, but it now enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.
Amidst a significant increase in American military presence in the Persian Gulf, the release of prisoners occurred. There is a chance that U.S. troops may board and protect commercial ships in the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial route where 20% of global oil shipments traverse.
After the plane slowed to a stop in Doha, three of the prisoners – Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi and Morad Tahbaz – emerged.
They embraced Timmy Davis, the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, along with other individuals. Afterwards, the trio linked arms and proceeded towards the airport.
Namazi expressed his gratitude in a statement, acknowledging that he owes his freedom to those who refused to let the world forget about him.
He expressed gratitude for speaking on his behalf when he was unable to and for ensuring that his voice was heard when he managed to shout out from within the secure confines of Evin Prison.
The United States did not immediately identify the other two freed Americans. All were released in exchange for five Iranians in U.S. custody and for the deal over the frozen Iranian assets owed by South Korea. The Biden administration said the five freed Iranians pose no threat to U.S. national security.
Effie Namazi and Vida Tahbaz, who are relatives of the imprisoned Americans, were also passengers on the plane. They had previously faced travel restrictions in Iran.
Nasser Kanaani, the spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, stated that two Iranian prisoners will remain in the United States. On the other hand, Nour News, a website associated with Iran’s security apparatus, reported that two Iranian prisoners were in Doha as part of the exchange.
Nour News identified the two in Doha as: Mehrdad Ansari, an Iranian sentenced by the U.S. to 63 months in prison in 2021 for obtaining equipment that could be used in missiles, electronic warfare, nuclear weapons and other military gear, and Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, an Iranian charged in 2021 over allegedly unlawfully exporting laboratory equipment to Iran.
The $5.9 billion in cash released to Iran represents money South Korea owed Iran – but had not yet paid – for oil purchased before the U.S. imposed sanctions on such transactions in 2019.
The United States asserts that, after arriving in Qatar, the funds will be kept in accounts with limitations on their use, specifically for purchasing humanitarian necessities like medicine and food. These transactions are presently permitted under U.S. sanctions aimed at the Islamic Republic due to its progress in nuclear development.
Most Iranian government officials have agreed with this viewpoint, although a few hard-liners have claimed, without any proof, that there will be no limitations on how Tehran utilizes the funds.
The agreement has already exposed Biden to new criticism from Republicans and others who argue that the administration is aiding the Iranian economy while Iran increasingly endangers American troops and allies in the Middle East. This could potentially impact his chances of being re-elected.
Donald Trump, the previous President and current top Republican contender, criticized the deal as “completely absurd” on the Truth Social platform. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, accused Biden of encouraging and rewarding Tehran’s negative actions.
After their release, Biden had a phone call with the families of the freed Americans, which the White House described as an emotional conversation.
Biden called for additional details regarding the whereabouts of Bob Levinson, an American citizen who disappeared many years ago. The Biden administration also declared new penalties against former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence.
The charges against the five Americans have been criticized as unfounded by the U.S. government, the families of the prisoners, and activists.
The Americans included Namazi, who was detained in 2015 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison on spying charges; Sharghi, a venture capitalist sentenced to 10 years; and Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent who was arrested in 2018 and also received a 10-year sentence.
Neda, Sharghi’s sister, expressed her eagerness to embrace her brother tightly and never release him in a statement.
“I cannot reword.”
Iran and the United States have engaged in a series of prisoner exchanges since the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy and the subsequent hostage crisis that occurred during the Islamic Revolution.
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Jo from Doha, Qatar. Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi and Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Matthew Lee, Paul Haven, Aamer Madhani and Michelle Phillips in New York; and Eric Tucker and Farnoush Amiri in Washington contributed to this report.
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