Current News



5 Americans freed in Iran prisoner swap after years of captivity

Tracy Wilkinson and Courtney Subramanian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

“This money belongs to the Iranian people, the Iranian government, so the Islamic Republic of Iran will decide what to do with this money,” Raisi said in an interview with NBC. He spoke through an interpreter.

Negotiations over the prisoners have remained separate from a raft of still-contentious issues between Washington and Tehran, such as Iran supplying Russia with drones used in the war on Ukraine and its support for militant groups throughout the Middle East.

The Biden administration has continued imposing sanctions on Iran and on individual officials, including a batch last week. Many target those considered responsible for human rights abuses, including the death of Mahsa Jina Amini, a young Iranian Kurdish woman who died in the custody of the country’s so-called morality police a year ago. She was arrested for failing to wear her headscarf properly, and her death triggered widespread protests that the Iranian government violently repressed.

“We’ll continue to sanction Iranian behavior, whether it is flouting basic norms of human rights contained in the Universal Declaration (of Human Rights) or ... the work that Iran is doing to provide weapons to Russia to kill Ukrainian civilians, and we’ll have more designations on that in the coming days,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday.

Talks with Iran to curb its nuclear program have been stalled since the Trump administration pulled out of an international agreement that limited Iran’s enrichment of uranium, a key ingredient in nuclear production.

Amid the release of the American citizens from Iran, several others are still being held abroad, including Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in Russia in late March on espionage charges, and Paul Whelan, a former Marine and corporate security executive detained in Russia in 2018, also on spy charges. Both men have denied the allegations.

American basketball star Brittney Griner, arrested by Russia in 2022 for possession of vape cartridges containing hash oil, was released late last year in exchange for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer.


Despite the cheer over the release of Iran’s prisoners, critics continued to pummel the Biden administration for making concessions to the country, with which Washington has not had diplomatic relations for decades.

Former vice president and current GOP presidential candidate Mike Pence said the $6 billion amounted to a “ransom.”

But State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that attitude was unrealistic.

“Iran is not going to release these American citizens out of the goodness of their heart,” he said before Monday’s release. “That is not real life. ... That was never going to happen.”


(Los Angeles Times staff writers Wilkinson reported from New York and Subramanian from Washington.)

©2023 Los Angeles Times. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus