Republicans called out Biden about making a deal with Iran over freeing US citizens and releasing billions of dollars to Iran.
Biden’s Dubious Deal
President Biden reached a deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran to free five imprisoned United States citizens in exchange for freeing convicted Iranian criminals and unfreezing nearly $6 billion of Iran’s oil revenue that has been locked up due to sanctions.
Bogus Spying Charges
The US government said that all five American prisoners were wrongfully detained on “bogus spying charges.”
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the US received confirmation that Iran released the five prisoners and placed them on house arrest.
Watson also stated, “While this is an encouraging step, these US citizens should have never been detained in the first place.”
We Won’t Rest Until They Are Home
The White House National Security Council statement said, “We will not rest until they are all back home in the United States.”
It was also noted that the transfer of the five US citizens from prison to house arrest was a significant initial step in the implementation of the agreement.
The Funds Must Be Available First
The official Islamic Republic News Agency said that under the agreement, $10 billion would be released from accounts in South Korea and Iraq.
The five American prisoners won’t be permitted to leave Iran until the funds become available in Iranian accounts in Qatar.
The Money Has Been Inaccessible for Years
Iranian officials have been trying to find a way to access billions of dollars held in Iraq for deliveries of gas and oil as well as $7 billion in Iranian funds held in South Korea after the Trump administration tightened sanctions on the country’s oil exports.
Democrats Are Thrilled About the Deal
Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said he is “thrilled” that this day has arrived and he “won’t breathe easy” until the prisoners are back home.
But It Sets a Bad Precedent
Not everyone shares the same sentiments as Murphy. Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned that such machinations set a bad precedent.
Risch said he would welcome home the wrongfully detained Americans, but that “unfreezing $6 billion in Iranian assets dangerously further incentivizes hostage taking and provides a windfall for regime aggression.”
Countries Should Be Punished
Risch said the Biden Administration needs to punish countries who use Americans as political pawns so that this practice will stop.
During Barack Obama’s presidency, the US negotiated the release of five detained Americans at the same time $400 million in cash was sent to Iran for a decades-old military sales legal dispute.
Ransom Practices Continue
Because the prisoners were released at the same time the $400 million was sent to Iran, Republicans deemed it a ransom situation and predicted it would lead Iran to imprison more Americans in the future.
The capital of Iran, Tehran, has not stopped this practice in the years since.
Trump’s Prisoner Exchange Deal Was Okay
The Trump administration brought home two Americans being held in Iran, also through prisoner exchanges. However, Trump’s deal did not involve transferring funds to Iran, so the deal didn’t see much criticism.
The Funds Won’t Be Used for Good
Another Republican, Senator Tom Cotton, called Biden’s deal with Iran a “ransom” and a “craven act of appeasement.”
His concern is what Iran would spend the millions of dollars on, saying the funds would likely be used to “attack our troops, fund terrorism, and arm Russia.”
Mike Pence Criticized the Deal
Republican presidential candidate Mike Pence also criticized the agreement Biden reached with Iran. He is concerned that Iran will use the money to “produce drones for Russia and fund terrorism against the US and Israel.”
He also referred to the American hostages being held in China and Russia. Those countries are watching this deal and “now know the price has just gone up.”
The American Prisoners
Siamak Namazi is one of the five American prisoners being held in Iran. He was on a business trip in October of 2015 when he was arrested on charges of “cooperating with a hostile government.”
Morad Tahbaz is another one of the American prisoners. This businessman and environmentalist was arrested in Iran in January of 2018. He was sentenced to ten years in prison after being convicted of spying.
Emad Shargi, an Iranian-American businessman, was also arrested in Iran in 2018. He was sentenced, without a trial, to ten years in prison for espionage.
Family Members Have Seen Their Loved Ones
The other two Americans who have been held in an Iranian prison, including one woman, have asked that their identities remain private. Namazi’s family received direct visual confirmation that Namazi, Tahbaz, and Shargi had been freed from the Iranian prison.
Biden Is Making Cautious Negotiations
The Biden administration wanted to avoid moving the negotiations with Iran to the top of the political agenda as the presidential election approaches. However, the administration also noted the potential for talks to fail.
The US has repeatedly called out and penalized Iran for its assistance to Russia in the war in Ukraine.
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