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Iranian prisoners freed in controversial exchange, welcomed in U.S.

A family member embraces freed American Siamak Namazi after he and four fellow detainees were released in a prisoner swap deal between the United States and Iran. Associated Press/Photo by Jonathan Ernst, Pool

Iranian prisoners freed in controversial exchange, welcomed in U.S.

Five Americans formerly serving time as prisoners in Iran landed in Fairfax County, Va., on Tuesday after Iranian authorities flew them to Qatar. The United States, in exchange, is releasing five imprisoned Iranians. Authorities are also unfreezing $6 billion in Iranian assets held by South Korea. Qatar mediated the negotiations, which were scheduled to finish before the end of Monday.

Where did the $6 billion come from? Iran made the money through oil sales to South Korea. The country froze the funds after former U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran. Once the money is in Qatar, the money is supposed to be held in restricted accounts and only to be accessed for humanitarian goods like medicine or food. Some Republicans argue the money is essentially a ransom for the prisoners, while President Joe Biden says it is the only way to free them.

Dig deeper: Listen to an interview with Iran expert Benham Ben Taleblu on The World and Everything in It podcast giving background context on the prisoner swap.

Tobin Jacobson

Tobin Jacobson is a student at Patrick Henry College and the World Journalism Institute.

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