Five Americans detained for years in Iran walked off a plane and into freedom Monday, most arm-in-arm, as part of a politically risky deal that saw President Joe Biden agree to the release of nearly $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets owed by a third country, South Korea. The successful negotiations for the Americans’ freedom brought Biden profuse thanks from their families but heat from Republican presidential rivals and other opponents for the monetary arrangement with one of America’s top adversaries. “Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home,” Biden said in a statement released as the plane carrying the group from Tehran landed in Doha, Qatar. A plane carrying the Americans home to the United States was due to land Monday night.
The U.N. nuclear chief said Monday he asked to meet Iran’s president on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly to try to reverse Tehran’s uncalled for” ban on “a very sizable chunk” of the agency’s inspectors. Rafael Grossi stressed that the Iranian government’s removal of many agency cameras and electronic monitoring systems installed by the International Atomic Energy Agency also make it impossible to give assurances about the country’s nuclear program. Grossi said he wrote to President Ebrahim Raisi telling him it is “very important” to meet about Tehran’s targeting of inspectors, including “some of the best and most experienced.”
South Korea confirmed on Tuesday Iranian funds that had been frozen in South Korea have been "successfully" transferred to a third country, after a U.S.-bound plane carrying five Americans freed by Iran left Doha as part of a prisoner swap. A plane sent by Qatar flew the five U.S. citizens and two of their relatives out of Tehran after both sides got confirmation the $6 billion was transferred from South Korea to Qatari accounts, a source earlier told Reuters. "The Iranian funds that had been frozen in South Korea due to financial sanctions on Iran have been recently transferred to a third country successfully under close coordination among the involved countries," South Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement.
UANI IN THE NEWS
…“Raisi has left for New York. He should be met with handcuffs, not a CFR invitation,” wrote Jason Brodsky, policy director for U.S. advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran. “The Secret Service will once again be protecting a man whose regime is trying to assassinate Americans,” he added.
When the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, visits New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) this week, he will try to project a sense of confidence. Since his inauguration in August 2021, Raisi’s administration has scored a series of foreign policy wins, which he may well point to: Iran’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia, and an invitation to join BRICS (originally including Brazil, Russia, India, China, and, later, South Africa) have all occurred under his watch. The regime also managed to survive serious protests after the death of Mahsa Amini, which started to consume the Islamic Republic while Raisi was in Turtle Bay last year.
…According to United Against Nuclear Iran, Mr Shargi worked in Iran in a senior role at Sarva, an Iran-based venture capital and holding company that made investments in Iran’s technology sector.
…Jason Brodsky, policy director of U.S. advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, wrote on the X social media platform earlier Monday that granting Afrasiabi clemency raises the question of what future activities he would engage in while remaining in the U.S.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
A detainee swap that secured the release of five Americans held in Iran on Monday does not change Washington's adversarial relationship with Tehran, although the door remains open for diplomacy over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, a senior administration official said. The United States and Iran, after months of Qatar-mediated talks, have struck a deal in which Tehran released five U.S. dual nationals who were imprisoned in Iran in exchange for five Iranians held in the United States. Speaking to reporters late on Sunday, senior Biden administration officials said Washington would keep up the pressure on Tehran by imposing fresh sanctions on Iran's ministry of intelligence and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for their involvement in the detention of U.S. citizens. The U.S. had also increased its interdiction posture in the region to deter Iranian arms shipments into Yemen.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
The Iranian government now has access to $6 billion of their funds to be used for humanitarian purposes as a part of a wider deal that allowed five Americans who had been imprisoned in Iran to go free. The money – which had been held in restricted accounts in South Korea before being transferred to different restricted accounts in Qatar via banks in Europe – is a a key part of the deal. Iranian and US officials were notified by Qatar on Monday that the transfer had finished, according to a source briefed on details of the matter. While the Iranian government claims it can use the money however it pleases, the Biden administration has repeatedly stressed that the funds are narrowly limited to non-sanctionable purchases like food and medicine, and that they will be subject to strict oversight.
The US on Monday sanctioned former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shortly after Washington secured the release of five American detainees who had been held for years in Evin prison. Mr Ahmadinejad was sanctioned for having provided support to Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, which was also designated for its involvement in the hostage-taking or wrongful detention of US citizens. “Today’s action targets Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for enabling the wrongful detention of our citizens, causing immeasurable pain and suffering for both the victims and their families,” said Brian Nelson, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. ran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security was involved in the detentions of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, as well as hikers Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sara Shourd during Mr Ahmadenijad's term in office, from 2005-2013.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday that the release of five American detainees by Tehran was "purely a humanitarian action" as they left Iran under a Qatar-mediated deal that involved the release of $6 billion Iranian funds in South Korea. "This was purely a humanitarian action ... And it can certainly be a step based upon which in the future other humanitarian actions can be taken," Raisi told a group of journalists after his arrival in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. Iranian authorities said the five Iranians detained by the United States and charged with committing crimes had been freed, an apparent reference to their being granted clemency. Two arrived in Doha, U.S. and Iranian officials said.
Donald Trump issued a warning on Monday about President Joe Biden's deal to secure five United States citizens who were detained by Iran. Biden's deal, which was announced in August and took two years to negotiate, according to The New York Times, has come under scrutiny over its concessions to Iran. The Biden administration agreed to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian oil funds currently held in a South Korea bank, as well as return five Iranian prisoners who have faced charges in the U.S. in exchange for the five Americans. Critics of the deal, meanwhile, have said it could risk national security or encourage the capture of more Americans.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The daughter of a US resident on death row in Iran said her father has been “left behind to die” after the Biden administration failed to include him in a hostage release deal with Tehran. Jamshid “Jimmy” Sharmahd, who holds dual Iranian-German citizenship and American residency, was sidelined from a controversial prisoner exchange deal that will see $6 billion (£4.8 billion) of Iranian oil money unfrozen. Gazelle Sharmahd told The National US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz owe her family an explanation on the “horrific hostage-abandonment deal”.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran’s president on Monday denied his country had sent drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, even as the United States accuses Iran of not only providing the weapons but helping Russia build a plant to manufacture them. “We are against the war in Ukraine,” President Ebrahim Raisi said as he met with media executives on the sidelines of the world’s premier global conference, the high-level leaders' meeting at the U.N. General Assembly. Known as a hard-liner, Raisi seemingly sought to strike a diplomatic tone. He reiterated offers to mediate the Russia-Ukraine war despite being one of the Kremlin’s strongest backers. And he suggested that the just-concluded deal with the United States that led to the prisoner exchange and assets release could “help build trust” between the longtime foes.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Iran’s president on Monday warned against normalization with Israel, denied his country had sent drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, and decried the US for “interfering” in the Middle East. Iranian President Ebraham Raisi warned other countries in the region not to get too close with Israel as he met with media executives on the sidelines of the world’s premier global conference, the high-level leaders’ meeting at the UN General Assembly. “The normalization of relations with the Zionist regime does not create security,” Raisi said. he US has been looking to broker a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel, a goal long sought by Jerusalem that could have a dramatic impact in the Middle East. Israel has already normalized relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.