White House cautious on Iran prisoner release

The administration of US President Joe Biden is in active negotiations with Iran to bring home five jailed Americans released on house arrest in anticipation of a reported prisoner exchange and the release of $6 billion in Iran’s oil revenue.

White House National Security Spokesperson John Kirby on Friday cautioned that “the deal is not done” and that active discussions on how to bring home the five Americans are taking place.

Kirby also defended the deal from GOP criticism, saying the release of $6 billion will be tightly controlled for the purchase of food, medicine and medical equipment that does not have a dual military use.

“There would be a rigorous process of due diligence and standards applied with input from the US Treasury Department,” he told reporters in a briefing call.

GOP critics have accused the administration of paying out a hefty ransom that will encourage adversaries like Russia and China to target Americans.

Democrats argued the concessions are a necessary step to rescue Americans unjustly detained.

Tehran has announced that the process of release of $6 billion worth of Iran’s funds that have been illegally blocked in South Korea under the pretext of US sanctions is underway.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday Tehran has, in addition to unfreezing of the funds, been pursuing the release of the Iranian prisoners as part of its “inherent duties.”

It stated the prisoners had been arrested and held across American jails “illegally and under the vain pretext of [their] bypassing of the US’s oppressive sanctions.”

“The release of the prisoners…will be realized soon,” the statement noted, adding that the inmates identified for release by the US were still in the Islamic Republic.

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