The United States has taken a critical step toward getting unjustly detained Americans home from Iran.
On September 11, Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed Congress that he had signed sanctions waivers facilitating the transfer of $6 billion dollars of Iranian funds that had been held in restricted accounts in the Republic of Korea. The funds will be ultimately transferred to accounts in Qatar, where they will be available to the Iranian government for humanitarian transactions only.
In its documentation to Congress, the State Department said the transfer of the funds is “necessary to facilitate the release of five U.S. citizens detained in Iran.” In addition, the U.S. “has committed to release five Iranian nationals currently detained in the United States.”
Signing off on the sanctions waivers to release the Iranian funds was necessary because, as State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller made clear, “a number of banks … did not want to participate in transactions related to these accounts.” Now, he said, “the funds are in the process of being transferred to their ultimate destination, which is these accounts in Qatar.”
“When this money arrives in these accounts in Qatar, it will be held there under strict oversight by the United States Treasury Department, and the money can only be used for humanitarian purposes, and we remain vigilant in watching the spending of those funds and have the ability to freeze them again if we need to,” he said.
John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, emphasized that the funds are Iran’s, and that “[t]he Iranian people will be the beneficiaries … not the regime:”
“The regime doesn’t get to touch the money … It doesn’t go to them; they don’t decide the ultimate destination and they have no direct access to it.”
Coordinator Kirby said that United States policy toward Iran and its leaders has not changed.
“We will continue to counter the Iran regime’s human rights abuses. We’ll continue to counter their destabilizing actions abroad, its support for terrorism, its attack on maritime shipping in the Gulf, and its continued support for Russia’s war against Ukraine,” he said.
“Getting Americans home requires decisions, sometimes really tough decisions,” said Coordinator Kirby. “And we make no apologies for the fact that we’re going to get these five Americans home just as soon as possible.”