In a controversial move, the Biden administration has reportedly approved a deal with Iran in exchange for the release of five detained American citizens. The deal entails allowing the rogue regime to access $6 billion in frozen Iranian money held in South Korea, stashed away in international banks.
According to the Associated Press, Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed off on the deal late last week. The agreement was announced on the 22nd anniversary of the U.S. suffering terrorist attacks from Islamic fundamentalists, though it is unclear if it was deliberately timed to the 9/11 anniversary.
Under the deal, the Biden administration issued a blanket waiver for international banks to transfer the $6 billion in frozen Iranian money from South Korea to Qatar without running afoul of U.S. sanctions. The money would then be held in Qatar’s central bank for Iran to use, reportedly for the purchase of humanitarian goods. In addition, the administration agreed to release five Iranian citizens held in the U.S. in exchange.
Though the move has been welcomed by some, it has come under fire from many who say it violates the U.S. policy of not paying countries to release American citizens in order to avoid incentivizing their behavior. The waiver – said to ease European concerns – has also been met with criticism, with some arguing it will boost the Iranian economy and allow the regime to become more of a threat to U.S. troops and Middle Eastern allies.
The Biden administration has not addressed the criticism, simply affirming the release of the five American citizens late Monday.
The situation is an example of the nuanced approach the Biden administration has adopted toward diplomacy with Iran. During his election campaign, Biden had promised to return to the Obama-era nuclear deal, which many hoped would lead to greater stability in the region.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is continuing to pressure Iran to reverse its hostile actions and rejoin diplomacy with Washington. But Iranian officials have remained adamant that they will not consider a return to the nuclear deal until all U.S. sanctions are lifted.
For now, the Biden administration appears to be cautiously finding a middle ground in dealing with the rogue nation – offering incentives in exchange for moves that benefit the United States. Whether or not this approach will lead to a lasting peace or further unrest, however, remains to be seen.