US breaks $6 billion promise to Iran

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Even when Tehran released five American individuals accused of spying against the Islamic Republic, Washington has broken its pledge to unblock $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets.

The money was transferred from a South Korean bank to a bank in Qatar last month, where Tehran could access it under stringent supervision by the US Treasury Department to ensure that it was solely used for humanitarian purposes.

However, according to numerous sources who spoke to the media on condition of anonymity, the US and Qatar apparently struck a “understanding” on Thursday that Doha will disregard any withdrawal requests from Tehran.

The agreement sparked outrage in the United States, with Republicans alleging that turning up the monies would embolden Tehran to kidnap more Americans in future transactions. It has received additional criticism in the aftermath of a deadly Hamas attack on Israel, which some unconfirmed reports blamed in part on Tehran, despite US officials denying any Iranian involvement.

“None of the funds that have now gone to Qatar have actually been spent or accessed in any way by Iran,” State Department spokesman Antony Blinken told reporters in Israel on Thursday. “In fact, funds from that account, which is overseen by the Treasury Department, can only be spent on humanitarian goods such as food, medicine, and medical equipment.”

The prisoner swap came after months of back-channel negotiations between Washington and Tehran, with the final accord sweetened by the US vow to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian oil earnings.

Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz were among the five Americans condemned to ten years in jail on espionage allegations. According to US sources, the other two inmates preferred to remain anonymous. Namazi, a 51-year-old businessman, was detained in 2015 and was denied prisoner swaps by both the Obama and Trump administrations. Both Shargi and Tahbaz were detained in 2018.