The Biden administration has waived banks’ transfer of $6 billion in embargoed Iranian funds to Qatar without fear of sanctions — a major step. Agreement to free five Americans Those deemed wrongfully detained in Iran by the US State Department.
The process to bring the Americans home began to move forward in mid-August with the release of four Americans from house arrest. The waiver offer — which the administration announced to Congress on Monday — is a clear sign that the process may be reaching its final stages.
In a notice to Congress — a copy of which was obtained by CNN — he confirmed that the United States had committed to allowing $6 billion in blocked South Korean accounts to be used for humanitarian purposes in restricted accounts in Qatar. goods. Qatar will oversee the disbursement of those funds.
“The transfer requires the involvement of financial institutions from Germany, Ireland, Qatar, the ROK and Switzerland,” he wrote. The waiver, approved by Blinken on Friday, would allow those companies to transfer money to accounts in Qatar without worrying about US sanctions. This exemption was originally reported Associated Press.
Blinken confirmed the prisoner exchange component of the deal, noting that “the United States has committed to the release of five Iranian nationals currently detained in the United States.”
In a statement to CNN, a State Department spokesperson described the waiver as “not new” but “a technical endorsement of an already announced transfer.”
“As we previously stated, the United States has agreed to transfer funds from South Korea to controlled accounts at financial institutions in Qatar and to release five Iranian nationals detained in the United States to facilitate the release of five American citizens who are being held in Iran,” the spokesman said, adding that the signing of the waiver “these five U.S. citizens An important step in safeguarding the liberties of citizens”.
“We continue to work to free US citizens unjustly held by Iran, and we continue to monitor their health and welfare with the help of our Swiss partners, but we have no updates to share at this time,” the spokesperson said. was added.
Still, the development may come as welcome news to the families of the Americans involved in the deal — Siamak Namasi, Morad Tahbas, Emad Sharqi and two Americans who have not been publicly identified — as it indicates their dream may be coming. A conclusion. Namasi, Tahbas and Sharqi have been detained in Iran for years.
That could face opposition from some Republicans in Congress and some GOP presidential candidates who spoke out when the outlines of the prospective deal were announced last month.
CNN reported the details after Namasi, Tahbas, Sharqi and a fourth American were placed under house arrest in mid-August. A fifth American was already under house arrest.
A State Department spokesman noted that the waiver “allows funds to be transferred from one location to another, but does not change the fact that they can only be used to purchase Iran’s humanitarian supplies.”
“As we said, no money goes directly to Iran and no taxpayer funds are used. The funds held in South Korea are Iranian funds,” they stressed. “These funds will be transferred to controlled accounts in Qatar, and the US will oversee how and when these funds are used.”
“It is longstanding U.S. policy to ensure that our sanctions do not prevent the flow of food, medicine and other humanitarian goods and services to ordinary people, no matter how much their governments object,” the spokesman continued, adding that the U.S. “has not lifted any of our sanctions on Iran and Iran has not received any sanctions relief. ”
At the time Americans were moved to house arrest, a source familiar with the negotiations described the development as “an encouraging step,” noting that there was “basically an agreed-upon roadmap.” However, they added that “there is still a lot of work to be done” on the prospective deal.
“A gradual process is going to unfold. So, the first step is to get our people out of jail,” the source said.
“And then there will be arrangements where we agree to do certain things, and Iran agrees to do certain things, that will ultimately lead to Americans coming home,” they said.
“It will be about a week” before the five Americans return to the US, the source said at the time, citing a September deadline.
The potential breakthrough came after more than a year of backdoor talks between Washington and Tehran.
This story has been updated with additional information.