White House officials have confirmed that the five American citizens involved in a prisoner exchange with Iran are en route to the United States. These five individuals, along with two family members, departed from Iran and arrived in Doha, Qatar, on Monday.
The White House has portrayed this development as President Biden’s effort to reunite families. In exchange for their release, the United States provided five Iranian prisoners and unfroze $6 billion in funds earmarked for use in Iran.
A White House official remarked, “The president is reuniting five families once more,” underscoring the significance of this initiative. The unfrozen funds reached Qatar on Sunday night, prompting Iran’s decision to release the American detainees. Qatar has been serving as an intermediary in the negotiations between the United States and Iran.
President Biden issued a statement on Monday acknowledging the exchange, noting that two of the released Americans have chosen to keep their identities confidential. He also called on the Iranian regime to provide a comprehensive account of what happened to Bob Levinson, emphasizing the Levinson family’s right to answers.
Furthermore, Biden announced sanctions against former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence under the Levinson Act for their involvement in wrongful detentions. The President vowed to continue imposing costs on Iran for its provocative actions in the region.
The Biden administration has emphasized that Qatar will retain control of the unfrozen funds, which will be disbursed to Iran exclusively for humanitarian purposes. Nevertheless, critics argue that this approach falls short. Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, criticized the administration’s stance, stating that it appears disconnected from reality.
He pointed out that the administration’s rhetoric about controlling the accounts overlooks the fungibility of money and Iran’s history of exploiting humanitarian exemptions in past sanctions laws. Taleblu further argued that by waiving sanctions and making random payments, the Biden administration is inadvertently signaling to Tehran that its actions will not face meaningful pressure, despite Washington’s claims of supporting the Iranian people.