Trump Has Thoughts on Iran Prisoner Swap

Former president blasts 'absolutely ridiculous' deal as 5 freed Americans arrive home
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 19, 2023 8:18 AM CDT
As Plane Lands in US, a Shout of 'Freedom!'
Family members embrace freed American Emad Shargi after he and four fellow detainees were released in a prisoner swap deal between U.S and Iran, as he arrives at Davison Army Airfield, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at Fort Belvoir, Va.   (Jonathan Ernst/Pool via AP)

Americans detained for years in Iran arrived home Tuesday after being freed as part of a politically risky deal that saw President Biden agree to the release of nearly $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets, per the AP. The prisoners landed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, with clapping and cheers heard in the predawn hours. Siamak Namazi, the first off the jet, paused for a moment, closed his eyes and took a deep breath before leaving the plane. Loved ones, some holding small American flags, tearfully enveloped them in hugs and exchanged greetings in English and Farsi, the main language of Iran. "The nightmare is finally over," Namazi's brother, Babak, said at the airport. "It's unbelievable." The former prisoners later posed for a group photograph with their families, calling out: "Freedom!"

The successful negotiations for the Americans' freedom brought Biden profuse thanks from their families but heat from Republican presidential rivals and other opponents for the monetary arrangement with one of America's top adversaries. Former President Trump, currently the lead Republican challenger, called it an "absolutely ridiculous" deal on Truth Social. The Biden administration says it gained the release of five "innocent" Americans imprisoned in Iran in exchange for five Iranians in US custody (who it says pose no threat to US national security). The $5.9 billion in frozen cash released to Iran represents money South Korea owed Iran, but had not yet paid, for oil purchased before the US imposed sanctions on such transactions in 2019.

The US maintains that the money will be held in restricted accounts to be used only for humanitarian goods, such as medicine and food. Iranian government officials have largely concurred, though some hardliners have insisted, without evidence, that there would be no restrictions on how Tehran spends the money. Iran's hardline President Ebrahim Raisi, on hand for the United Nations General Assembly in New York, suggested the exchange could be "a step in the direction of a humanitarian action between us and America" and "can definitely help in building trust." However, tensions are almost certain to remain high between the US and Iran, which are locked in disputes over Tehran's nuclear program and other matters. Iran says the program is peaceful, but it now enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels. (More prisoner swap stories.)

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