The US has taken another step toward completing a prisoner swap deal with Iran that will involve Tehran gaining access to $6 billion of its own frozen funds, The Associated Press reported Monday.
Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed a sanctions waiver allowing the transfer of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar. In a notification to Congress sent on Monday, Blinken said the funds would be placed in “restricted accounts” and that Tehran would have access “only for humanitarian trade.”
Blinken also said the US plans to release five unnamed Iranians who have been detained in the US over allegations of sanctions violations. In return, Iran will release five Americans who were recently put on house arrest in a hotel to prepare for the swap.
Sources told AP they expect the prisoner swap to happen as early as next week. The news that the US and Iran had agreed on a prisoner exchange was first reported by The New York Times at the beginning of August.
Iran hawks in Congress are furious with the Biden administration over the deal and are portraying the transfer of $6 billion as a “ransom” even though it is Iran’s own money.
The prisoner swap signals there may be more room for diplomacy between the US and Iran. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) claimed on Monday that the Biden administration “established a secret nuclear deal” with Iran that’s being kept from Congress.