© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Iranian and U.S. flags are seen printed on paper in this illustration taken January 27, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
By Parisa Hafezi
(Reuters) – Iran and the U.S. were to swap five detainees each on Monday after Qatar mediated a deal between the arch foes that also unfroze $6 billion of Tehran’s funds.
HOW IS THE EXCHANGE HAPPENING?
Implementation of the deal was triggered when Qatar confirmed that the funds had been transferred to bank accounts in Doha, a source briefed on details of the matter told Reuters.
Under the deal, the five Americans with dual nationality are expected to leave Tehran for Qatar’s capital Doha and then fly to the United States. In return, five Iranians held in the U.S. will be released.
The Iranian Foreign ministry spokesperson said on Monday two of the Iranians being released would return to Iran while two would stay in the U.S. at their request. One detainee would join his family in a third country.
The transfer of Iran’s funds has drawn Republican criticism that President Joe Biden, a Democrat, is in effect paying ransom for U.S. citizens. The White House has defended the deal.
An important unanswered question is whether the deal may lead to future agreements in disputes that range from Iran’s nuclear standoff with the U.S. to Tehran’s influence across the Middle East, including Hezbollah, its heavily armed proxy in Lebanon on Israel’s border.
HOW WAS THE DEAL NEGOTIATED?
The agreement was the culmination of months of diplomatic contacts, secret talks and legal manoeuvring, with Qatar at the heart of negotiations, sources and officials familiar with the discussions told Reuters.
Doha hosted at least eight rounds of clandestine indirect meetings between Tehran and Washington since March 2022.
The earlier rounds were devoted chiefly to Tehran’s nuclear dispute with Washington, but over time the focus shifted to prisoners as the negotiators realised that nuclear talks would lead nowhere due to their complexity.
The first public glimpse of the deal came on Aug. 10 when Iran allowed four detained U.S. citizens to move into house arrest from Tehran’s Evin prison. A fifth was already confined at home.
A month later, Washington waived sanctions to allow the transfer of Iran’s funds to banks in Qatar, which will have a monitoring role to ensure Iran’s clerical rulers spend the funds on non-sanctioned goods.
WHO ARE THE PRISONERS?
The detained Iranian Americans who will be…