Biden Admin, Iran Reach $6B Deal: 'Largest Hostage Ransom Payment' in US History
Share This article
The Biden administration has agreed to pay Iran $6 billion for the release of five imprisoned Americans, but experts say this will only encourage Iran to seek more hostages as a "lucrative means of international extortion for Iran's supreme leader."
The United States and Iran reached a deal on August 10 for Tehran's release of five wrongfully detained Iranian-Americans in exchange for the release of several Iranian prisoners jailed in the U.S. and access to $6 billion in sanctioned oil revenue that's being held in South Korea.
The freed Iranians include Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi, Morad Tahbaz, and two unnamed individuals whose families want their identities to remain anonymous.
Jared Genser, the lawyer for Mr. Namazi, said that as of Thursday all five prisoners were released from Evin Prison and are currently at a hotel in Tehran. They will be held there for a few weeks under house arrest until they are allowed to leave the country.
"While I hope this will be the first step to their ultimate release, this is at best the beginning of the end and nothing more," Mr. Genser said in a statement. "But there are simply no guarantees about what happens from here."
It's the first step in a secret agreement that has taken more than two years to reach, The New York Times reports.
"This is just the beginning of a process that I hope and expect will lead to their return home to the United States," Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Thursday. "There's more work to be done to actually bring them home. My belief is that this is the beginning of the end of their nightmare."
But experts with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) say the negotiations don't allude to the end of the nightmare, but the start of another one.
"It's good news that American hostages, illegally seized by the regime in Iran, are coming home. But paying $6 billion in ransom payments means the regime will only take more hostages," explained FDD President Mark Dubowitz. "This has become a lucrative means of international extortion for Iran's supreme leader."
He added, "In the real world, where cash is fungible, it will free up $6 billion to be used for terrorism, funding drones for Russia, domestic repression, and nuclear weapons expansion. Only when the regime is severely punished for illegally seizing hostages, not rewarded with billions in ransom payments, will it put a stop to these humanitarian abuses."
Genser contends the U.S. is not sending any U.S. money to Iran as part of the agreement. He explains the Biden Administration is unfreezing a $6 billion oil payment from South Korean companies to Iran.
"That's actually $6 billion of Iranian money that's been frozen in a South Korean account for many, many years," Genser said. "I think it is important to emphasize that the U.S. is not going to pay a single penny to Iran in the context of fulfilling this deal."
FDD Senior Advisor Richard Goldberg believes the deal is bad policy.
"This is not a prisoner exchange; it's the largest hostage ransom payment in American history. This money isn't for humanitarian relief; it's budget support to the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. At more than $1 billion per hostage, Iran, Russia, and China will be more likely to take Americans hostage, not less."
Republicans on Capitol Hill agree the exchange is troubling.
"While we always welcome the release of American hostages − if they are in fact released after President Biden pays Iran $6 billion in ransom − this craven act of appeasement will only embolden the ayatollahs to take more hostages and use these ill-gotten gains to attack our troops, fund terrorism and arm Russia," said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). "This cycle will continue until President Biden stops dancing to Iran's tune and starts responding firmly and decisively to their aggression."
All five of the prisoners were jailed on unsubstantiated charges of spying.
Share This article