By Mia Birkes
During the morning hours of Tuesday, September 19, five Americans returned to U.S. soil after being held in Iran for several years. The names of three individuals have been disclosed, but two members of this group remain unknown. Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Shargi, and the two unnamed individuals are safe at home with their families.
In exchange for the return of these five U.S. citizens, the federal government agreed to exchange five Iranian prisoners and to unfreeze $6 billion in frozen oil revenues. This money is meant to represent money owed to Iran by South Korea, which the U.S. charged as sanctions on previous transactions. This exchange has brought criticism from many of Biden’s political enemies, including Republican Michael McCaul of Texas, who serves as the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman. McCaul says that this deal “creates a direct incentive” for situations like this in the future. Siamak Namazi, who had been held since 2015, said that Iran has “mastered the nasty game of caging innocent Americans” and “commercializing their freedom.”
The White House, however, reminds everyone that the money technically belonged to Iran to begin with, but the Treasury Department says it will be watching Iran closely as it spends this money. The president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, says “the Islamic Republic of Iran will decide to spend it wherever we need it.” Raisi, however, is hopeful that this exchange may be a step towards lowering tensions between Iran and the U.S. by building trust.