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Biden admin ok's transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds for prisoner exchanges: report

In late 2022, the administration traded convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout for WNBA star Brittney Griner in a much-maligned deal with Moscow.

September 11, 2023 5:52pm

Updated: September 11, 2023 10:19pm

The Biden administration has reportedly authorized the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar as part of an agreement with Tehran to secure the release of five American prisoners.

A notification from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, which the Associated Press obtained, indicates that the administration approved sanction waivers for the transfer last week. The prisoners could be released as early as next week.

"To facilitate their release, the United States has committed to release five Iranian nationals currently held in the United States and to permit the transfer of approximately $6 billion in restricted Iranian funds held in (South Korea) to restricted accounts in Qatar, where the funds will be available only for humanitarian trade," the notification reads.

"I determine that it is in the national security interest of the United States to waive the imposition of sanctions ... with respect to foreign financial institutions under the primary jurisdiction of Germany, Ireland, Qatar, the Republic of Korea, and Switzerland that are notified directly in writing by the U.S. government, to the extent necessary for such institutions to engage in transactions occurring on or after August 9, 2023," Blinken continued.

At least one Democrat, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, has since come forward with concerns that the deal would encourage foreign powers to take more American hostages.

"This is an example of why we have to go ahead and make it very clear to Americans that they cannot travel to certain places in the world where they are likely to ultimately become a hostage. Until we do that we will constantly be in a set of circumstances," he told The Hill.

The deal is sure to draw criticism from Republicans, who have previously chastised the administration for its handling of deals to secure the release of Americans from the custody of a hostile nation.

In late 2022, the administration traded convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout for WNBA star Brittney Griner in a much-maligned deal with Moscow that saw many question why the administration had not negotiated the release of ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who had been in Russian custody far longer.

The Kremlin has suggested it is open to addition prisoner swaps. Both Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich remain in Russian custody.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

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