Iran Offers Full Prisoner Exchange With US

Iran FM pushes exchange offer in address to CFR

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made a video address to the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, during which he proposed a full exchange of prisoners held by the US and Iranian governments.

It’s unclear exactly how many prisoners this would cover, but Zarif said the offer was to exchange all prisoners, adding that “there are Iranians in US prisoners who are only there because they refuse to betray their country.”

Iran has some US citizens in prison on espionage charges, while mostly the Iranians held by the US are facing allegations of violating sanctions. The US has often demanded the unconditional release of all Americans held.

Exchanges are not unheard of. In December 2018 the US and Iran traded a pair of prisoners, and in June Iran released a Navy veteran who had contracted Covid-19, in return for the US allowing an Iranian-American doctor to visit Iran.

The relationship between the US and Iran is as bad as it has ever been, and that’s going to complicate the trade. At the same time, a prisoner exchange could be a nice confidence-building measure for the two sides, and maybe a chance to build a new set of contacts.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of