Five U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran have been released from prison and placed under house arrest – the first positive step in a negotiating process that, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken expects, will lead to their return home to the United States.
“There is more work to be done to actually bring them home. My belief is that this is the beginning of the end of their nightmare and the nightmare their families have experienced.”
The five Americans are Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Shargi and two people who wished to remain private. Namazi, Tahbaz, and Shargi were all imprisoned on false charges of espionage and were released from Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.
Because negotiations for the return home of the Americans “remain ongoing and delicate”, as National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement, U.S. officials did not offer details about what has been agreed upon or is being discussed.
In an interview on CNN, White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said, however, that “negotiations are about giving and taking, and there was no universe in which we were going to get these five Americans home without some bartering, some compromising with the Iranians. And that bargaining is going on right now.”
Secretary of State Blinken made clear some parameters of the process:
“In any event, in any respect, Iran will not be receiving any sanctions relief. And in any instance where we would engage in such efforts to bring Americans home from Iran, Iran’s own funds would be used and transferred to restricted accounts such that the monies can only be used for humanitarian purposes, which as you know, is permitted under our sanctions. There’s an exemption for humanitarian that’s there from the start.”
“We will continue to enforce all of our sanctions. We will continue to push back resolutely against Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and beyond, including now in supplying Russia with drones for its war of aggression against Ukraine. And none of these efforts take away from that,” said Secretary Blinken. “These are entirely separate tracks. We focused on getting our people home, but we continue to take strong actions against Iran’s other activities that we and so many other countries profoundly object to.”