26 Dec

Introduction :

In August 2023, the United States and Iran reached a tentative deal to release five American prisoners incarcerated in Iran. In return, the United States would release an un-known number of Iranian prisoners and would also allow South Korea to move billions of dollars of frozen Iranian assets in the latter to Qatar. The deal was also brokered by Qatar. The intricate deal was the result of months of indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran and was announced when four out of the five dual-national, Iranian US citizens, were moved from the notorious Evin prison to house arrest in a hotel while the fifth one is already on house arrest. 

According to officials, the deal may take from mid to end of September to complete. Although both the Iranian and US officials have confirmed the news about the agreement they have given differing details about it. According to Al-Jazeera, a US think tank fellow, Bar- bara Selvin holds that the deal implies that Iran is prepared to de-escalate the tensions with the United States. She further holds that it is unlikely that the deal may change the nature of relations between the West and Iran. Many analysts have also criticized this deal as they perceive it as concomitant to approving Iran's illegitimate actions.

Details of the Deal :

The United States has allowed South Korea to convert frozen Iranian assets from its currency to euros under this tentative deal.

As per the deal, the money, which is from $6 billion to $7 billion, would be sent to Qatar.

The frozen money is the amount that South Korea owed to Iran for the purchase of oil which it had made before the imposition of sanctions by the Trump administration in 2019.

The United States holds that the money would only be used for buying humanitarian goods which are not banned under the US sanctions, including food and medicine. However, the Iranian officials hold a contradicting stance that Iran would have complete control over its funds. Meanwhile, Qatar has yet to publicly comment about the procedure to disburse the money. 

Prisoners Exchange :

Similarly, Iran and the United States will transfer each other's prisoners to Doha, Qatar. However, it remains unclear if the Iranian prisoners imprisoned in the US would like to be transferred back to their home country as most of them reside in the United States with their families. It is estimated that this whole process might take more than four to six weeks due to the intricacy of licensing and sanctions exemption documentation and other paperwork required for the exchange of detainees. 

Criticism :

Republicans Party :

Many in the US and the West have criticized this deal. Republicans have condemned this agreement of allowing Iran to have access to its financial assets which had been frozen due to the US sanctions. They hold that it would lead to strengthening Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the elite military force, and would also be utilized to arm militants across the Middle Eastern region. 

Formerly, US President Barrack Obama also faced backlash from the Republicans due to his $400 million deal under an agreement to release some American prisoners. Republicans labelled this deal as a ransom payment to Iran and Obama had to face criticism for this step.

Former US president Mike Pence :

Former US president Mike Pence also criticized this new deal with Iran by the Biden administration by labelling it as the largest ransom payment in American history to Irani Mullahs. He further stated that now Chinese and Russians also know that the price of the US prisoners has hiked up. There have been many incidents in the past where Iran has attacked West's ships the Strait of Hormuz since 2019 and the US is also been mulling over putting some coast guard fleets in the strait to protect their from such attacks. 

Conclusion :

As far as a major break- through between Iran and the US is concerned, it is difficult to see an urgent de-escalation between the two sides. Iran and the United States have more contradictions than commonalities. Iran's nuclear program is the major stumbling block between the US-Iran relations. Furthermore, the burgeoning ties between China and Iran, and the former's increasing influence around the world is also perplexing for the United States. The Saudi-Iran deal brokered by China depicts that the US influence in the Middle East is declining rapidly. China's policy of non-interference in the domestic issues of its allies also makes it one of the best options to make an ally for Iran. 

Moreover, China's advancement in the technology and development sector also makes it more attractive for Iran than the USA. Iran and the US might start de-escalating tension between the two countries after this deal. However, there is still a long road ahead.


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