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Five Americans imprisoned in Iran were officially flown out of Tehran on Monday as the U.S. unfroze some $6 billion in Iranian oil funds held for five years in South Korea.
The prisoner swap deal also included the release of five Iranian prisoners being held by Americans, two of whom plan to stay in the U.S.
As of late morning Monday ET, the five American prisoners were on a plane headed from Tehran to Doha, Qatar, according to the White House.
One of the prisoners being held in Iran was an oil executive with dual citizenship detained in 2015 for “collaboration with a hostile government”.
The deal between Washington and Tehran cemented in August pledged to give Tehran access to nearly $6 billion in frozen oil revenues on the condition that the funds be used for humanitarian purposes.
Tehran is expecting the funds to be made available immediately on Monday, with Washington signing a blanket waiver for U.S. sanctions that would allow international banks to transfer the funds to Iran from an account in South Korea.
Republicans have criticized the plan, with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mike McCaul stating: “The Americans held by Iran are innocent hostages who must be released immediately and unconditionally. However, I remain deeply concerned that the administration’s decision to waive sanctions to facilitate the transfer of $6 billion in funds for Iran, the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism, creates a direct incentive for America’s adversaries to conduct future hostage-taking.”
The White House has emphasized that Iran will not be given free reign to use the nearly $6 billion in any way it sees fit, and that the deal comes with tight restrictions.
The deal also follows warnings last week by European countries that Iran is building stocks of highly enriched uranium beyond that used for civilian purposes. ,
Prisoner swaps with Iran have been conducted in the past, as well, including under the Obama and Trump administrations.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com