US to place restrictions on unfrozen Iranian funds

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The US will maintain limits on $6 billion in seized Iranian assets that are slated to be freed as part of a prisoner swap agreement in which Tehran is likely to release five detained Americans.

On Friday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reacted on the agreement, assuring reporters that the US would closely monitor where the supplies are transferred. However, he noted that conversations are still underway and that “the deal is not done.”

“Essentially, the funds can only be accessed for food, medicine, and medical equipment that would not have a dual military use,” Kirby explained, adding that “there will be a rigorous process of due diligence and standards applied with input from the US Treasury Department.”

The agreement was first reported by multiple media outlets earlier this week, which noted that in addition to unfreezing billions in Iranian funds, Washington would also release five Iranians currently locked in US prisons. President Joe Biden has reportedly approved the deal in principle.

The White House has announced that the five Americans detained in Iran are now being held under house arrest, with four of them having recently been freed from Tehran’s Evin Prison. The detainees have been identified as Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, and Emad Shargi, with the others requesting anonymity.

Iran’s frozen assets are being held in a restricted account in South Korea. According to the agreement, they would be moved to Qatar, where Iran could retrieve the monies. Kirby stated that if an agreement is reached, there will be “no impediment” to the purchase.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier stated that a prisoner swap would not result in sanctions relief for Iran, asserting that it would only receive its “own funds,” with the assets limited to “humanitarian purposes.”

Tehran has repeatedly demanded an end to US economic sanctions imposed after President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal reached between Iran, the US, and other international powers. While talks to restart the nuclear deal in exchange for sanctions relief have mostly frozen, Kirby stated that the US would “welcome” any steps taken by Iran to reduce its nuclear program.

The emerging prisoner agreement comes amid escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf, where Washington has just approved a series of military deployments, including F-35 fighter fighters, a guided-missile destroyer, and other warships. The US Navy claimed earlier this week that 3,000 American marines and sailors were stationed in the region to “deter” Iranian forces, accusing Tehran of “harassment and seizures.”