Les Etats-Unis et l’Iran échangent des prisonniers, malgré une relation bilatérale toujours conflictuelle

Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz et Emad Shargi, libérés dans le cadre d’un échange de prisonniers entre les Etats-Unis et l’Iran, à l’aéroport de Doha, le 18 septembre 2023.

The negotiation was lengthy and delicate. On Monday, September 18th, five American nationals who were illegally detained in Iran were released as part of a prisoner exchange between Washington and Tehran. These hostages boarded a plane provided by Qatar, acting as an intermediary, along with Switzerland. The agreement also includes the release of five Iranians incarcerated in the United States. It also involves a financial aspect: the transfer of $6 billion in oil revenue from a frozen account in South Korea to an account in Qatar. This money will be used by Tehran, under American supervision, for strictly “humanitarian” purposes.

At the beginning of August, four out of the five American prisoners were released from the notorious Evin prison and placed under house arrest. Their return to the United States a month later, “after years of torment, uncertainty, and suffering,” according to Joe Biden, is not a coincidence. It coincides with the week of the UN General Assembly in New York, where Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi is present. No meeting between the two leaders is planned. This release also coincides with the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was tortured and killed by the Iranian morality police. This tragedy sparked the unprecedented civic movement “Women, Life, Freedom.”

“I cannot reword”

Favorable context for resumption of diplomatic contacts.

The White House is aware that the issue of the released money is sensitive, with many conservative voices presenting it as “payment of a ransom” to kidnappers, like former Secretary of Defense under Donald Trump, Mark Esper, on Fox News. The administration emphasizes that it is not American funds, but Iranian money made available to Tehran to purchase medical equipment, medicine, and food. South Korea wanted to impeccably comply with the already imposed American sanctions against Iran, hence the importance of the transfer to Qatar, approved by Washington, which showcases the absence of any complacency. On Monday, new measures against the regime were announced. “We have sanctioned over 400 individuals and entities in 40 rounds of sanctions since the beginning of our administration,” a senior official reminded.

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