Will US-Iran Prisoner Swap Deal Lead To A Wider Diplomatic Breakthrough?
So close to the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death in Iranian police custody on September 16, the US and Iran are expected to pull off a controversial prisoner exchange on Monday involving the unfreezing of $6 billion of Iranian oil money held in South Korea since 2018.
In a delicate diplomatic agreement, the two countries are due to swap five prisoners each. However, the Biden administration has been accused of striking a deal that will only encourage the Middle Eastern country to keep hostage taking as a central part of its diplomatic arsenal.
Is US-Iran Prisoner Swap Deal Another Sign Of Washington’s Weakness?
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is due to speak to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday in New York. He could laud the swap deal as another sign of US weakness. Texas Republican Michael McCaul has accused President Joe Biden of returning to the mistakes of the past.
Meanwhile, GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis described Biden’s move as outrageous, adding: “[It] has sent a signal to hostile regimes that if you take Americans, you could potentially profit.” The five Americans due to be flown to the US have already been transferred out of prison.
They are now staying at various hotels in Tehran, including the conservationist Morad Tahbaz, a British-American citizen. He was left in Iran when British Iranian dual nationals Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori were released as part of a deal negotiated by London.
Most of the five Iranians who are being granted clemency in Washington were jailed for breaches of US sanctions. While it’s unclear if all of them want to get back to Iran, their identities have already been made public by Tehran.
Could Swap Deal Help Constrain Iran’s Civil Nuclear Programme?
Iran doesn’t accept dual citizenship. Therefore, Iranian Americans are often pawns between the two countries that deeply distrust one another. Would the elaborate agreement, months in the making, lead to a wider diplomatic breakthrough? So far, it remains unclear.
It’s also yet to be ascertained if the deal would lead to a new and less ambitious route to constrain Iran’s civil nuclear programme. Last week, a few countries in Europe accused Iran of building stocks of highly enriched uranium that could have no possible civilian purpose.