President Joe Biden said in a statement Monday that the five American citizens — two of whom wish to remain anonymous — are "finally coming home" following a deal mediated by Qatar
Five Americans jailed in Iran have been freed in a prisoner exchange.
"Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Sharghi, and two citizens who wish to remain private will soon be reunited with their loved ones — after enduring years of agony, uncertainty, and suffering," the statement read in part.
As reported by ABC News, a senior Biden administration official said Monday that the five were on a plane out of Iran to Doha, Qatar. They will then fly to the U.S. later on Monday.
The exchange is part of a deal that was reached last month after a year of indirect talks, according to BBC News, The deal was mediated by the state of Qatar. It was reported that the individuals, four men and one woman, would be able to board a flight once it is confirmed that $6 billion in Iranian funds had been transferred to banks in Doha.
The deal involved the Biden administration unfreezing $6 billion of Iranian oil money, which has been held in South Korea since 2018, according to The Guardian. The U.S. had previously frozen the funds through sanctions.
Five Iranians imprisoned in U.S. jails will also be released as part of the exchange, per the publication. Those set to be released were imprisoned mainly on charges of violating U.S. sanctions.
"I am grateful to our partners at home and abroad for their tireless efforts to help us achieve this outcome, including the Governments of Qatar, Oman, Switzerland, and South Korea," President Biden's statement continued.
"I give special thanks to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, and to the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq, both of whom helped facilitate this agreement over many months of difficult and principled American diplomacy."
The statement added that "reuniting wrongfully detained Americans with their loved ones" has been a priority for the Biden Administration "since day one" and "we will not stop working until we bring home every American held hostage or wrongfully detained."
The Iranian Foreign Ministry first announced they would imminently released early Monday morning, according to ABC News.
Tahbaz's wife, Vida, and Namazi's mother, Effie, were also allowed to leave Iran in the arrangement, per the publication. Although they had not been jailed like their family members, they had previously been banned from leaving Iran.
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On Sept. 11, the administration notified Congress that it had proceeded with the agreement, per NBC News.
The complex exchange has been criticized by many senior Republicans who believe the swap will only encourage more people to be taken hostage.
Sen. Lindsey Graham wrote on X, "I am always glad when Americans are released from captivity. However, this agreement will entice rogue regimes, like Iran, to take even more Americans hostage. The ayatollah and his henchmen are terrorists and truly represent a terrorist state."
Meanwhile, Sen. John Thune, shared on Facebook, "The U.S. should be unrelenting in its efforts to bring detained Americans home, but Iran will now count pallets of ransom money, putting its leaders in a better position to develop a nuclear weapon and fund terrorists. And the price to release U.S. hostages will only go up."
The U.S. should be unrelenting in its efforts to bring detained Americans home, but Iran will now count pallets of ransom money, putting its leaders in a better position to develop a nuclear weapon and fund terrorists. And the price to release U.S. hostages will only go up. https://t.co/9X63P24qSC
— Senator John Thune (@SenJohnThune) September 11, 2023
In a statement, the Biden administration said the U.S. is not giving Iran any money, per NBC News.
"This isn’t a payment of any kind. These aren’t U.S. dollars. They aren’t taxpayer dollars, they are Iranian dollars the previous Administration allowed them to make," National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged Americans not to travel to Iran.
"While this group of U.S. citizens has been released, there is no way to guarantee a similar result for other Americans who decide to travel to Iran despite the U.S. government’s longstanding warning against doing so," a statement from Blinken reads, in part.
"We continue to work with likeminded countries to deter future hostage-taking and hold Iran and other regimes accountable for such actions, including through actions we are taking today. U.S. citizens should not travel to Iran for any reason, and I call on any U.S. citizens in Iran to depart immediately."
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