A senior White House official confirmed Monday (September 18th) that five Americans who were prisoners in Iran, along with two female family members, had left the country.

Five Iranian nationals, prosecuted or convicted in the United States for non-violent offenses, will benefit from clemency measures, he said, adding that this prisoner exchange, politically risky for President Joe Biden, would be accompanied by sanctions against the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence as well as former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

According to a source familiar with the matter, the five released US citizens are currently on their way to Qatar, which has mediated between Tehran and Washington.

Of the Iranians released by the United States, "two will return to Iran, another will travel to a third country because of his family's presence in that country, and the last two will remain [in the United States]."

This arrangement was announced on August 10 as part of an agreement between Tehran and Washington.

Five Americans detained in Iran were then transferred from prison in August to house arrest before being transferred to Qatar.

Among them is businessman Siamak Namazi, who was arrested in 2015 and sentenced to ten years in prison in 2016 for espionage.

Among the five Iranians to be released by the United States are Reza Sarhangpour and Kambiz Attar Kashani, accused of "hijacking US sanctions" against Iran.

Not "a blank check" to Iran

In the eyes of some experts, this agreement reached after very discreet negotiations testifies to an easing of tensions between Iran and the United States, but they do not prejudge a possible agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue.

European-led negotiations failed in 2022 to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, moribund since the unilateral withdrawal of the United States in 2018 under President Donald Trump.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is expected in New York on Monday to attend the UN General Assembly.

On September 13, the White House rejected any notion of "ransom", as denounced by the Republican opposition to President Joe Biden, with the release of the $ 6 billion of frozen Iranian funds.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby insisted that this was not a "blank check" offered to Iran and that the use of these funds "for humanitarian purposes" only would be under "strict surveillance". Stemming from the sale of hydrocarbons by Iran, these funds had been blocked following US sanctions.

Tehran, for its part, has assured that it has the possibility to use this envelope differently and not only to buy medicine and food.

With AFP

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