Unveiling the True Cost of the US-Iran Prisoner Deal: What Lies Ahead

Unveiling the True Cost of the US-Iran Prisoner Deal: What Lies Ahead

The recent prisoner deal between the US and Iran, facilitated by Qatar, resulted in the release of five Americans and the transfer of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds However, underlying tensions and a lack of trust continue to strain relations between the two countries

Five American prisoners were released by Iran on Monday through a Qatar-mediated agreement. The deal also involved the transfer of approximately $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds and the release of five Iranian prisoners in the United States.

The meticulously planned agreement, which took years to finalize, is now being hailed as a significant diplomatic achievement between the two adversaries.

However, despite this milestone, it is important to note that the pact does not signify an overall improvement in relations. A senior official from the Biden administration emphasized that the deal "has not altered our relationship with Iran in any manner." In fact, shortly after the American prisoners were released by Iran, the Biden administration imposed additional sanctions on the regime.

However, according to analysts, the prisoner deal exemplifies a novel approach to unwritten arrangements between Washington and Tehran, in which smaller concessions are exchanged in the absence of a broader, formal agreement like the one reached in 2015 and subsequently abandoned by the Trump administration in 2018.

The prospect of a new and comprehensive agreement may pose challenges for both parties, particularly as the US approaches presidential elections in November 2024. A new pact of this nature would likely face opposition from Congress, requiring its approval. Additionally, from Iran's viewpoint, attempting to establish a new agreement with a US administration that could potentially be replaced in those elections would be futile if it is ultimately renounced by the next president.

The 2015 nuclear deal is unlikely to undergo a "meaningful revival" under the Biden administration, according to Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at the Chatham House think tank in London.

Unveiling the True Cost of the US-Iran Prisoner Deal: What Lies Ahead

Siamak Namazi

Courtesy Namazi family


Hear what American imprisoned in Iran told CNN in March

"Rather than written terms, an implicit agreement has been reached, whereby Iran is scaling back its uranium enrichment," she stated. "In return, the Biden administration is turning a blind eye, enabling Iran to boost its oil sales."

This agreement arises amidst a marked reduction in tensions between Iran and the US in recent months. Hostile actions by Iran and its affiliated groups against US interests in the Middle East have nearly ceased, and despite Western sanctions on its oil sector, Iran's oil exports have risen. Furthermore, there are reports indicating a slowdown in Iran's uranium enrichment activities within its nuclear program.

Ali Vaez, the Iran Project Director at the International Crisis Group think tank, stated that an agreement to de-escalate tensions between Washington and Tehran has contributed to a more stable environment for advancements. He referred to it as a "no deal, no crisis status quo."

According to various US news sources, Iran has recently reduced the rate at which it enriches uranium to levels suitable for weapons, as mentioned in a confidential report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear energy watchdog.

Iran has successfully increased its oil output and exports despite the imposition of Western sanctions. Iran's Minister of Petroleum, Javad Owji, stated on Sunday that the impact of Western sanctions is gradually diminishing. In his previous announcement, he expressed confidence that oil production would reach 3.4 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of the summer. This level of production marks the highest since 2018, when the United States, under President Trump, withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

A lack of trust

: According to a report by TankerTrackers.com, the oil exports of the Islamic Republics have witnessed a significant increase, reaching an average of 1.9 million bpd in August. This is only slightly below the export levels before the implementation of sanctions, which stood at an average of over 2.5 million bpd in 2017, as estimated by the US Energy Information Administration.

Analysts claim that even an unspoken agreement can be precarious, considering the ongoing conflicts between the two countries that may jeopardize the recent decrease in tensions. Additionally, there seems to be a lack of trust between the two parties.

Over the past year, Western dissatisfaction with Iran has escalated. The Islamic Republic has supplied drones to Russia during its involvement in the Ukrainian conflict and has violently suppressed protests within its borders against the compulsory hijab law, resulting in criticism from the Western world.

Tehran has notified the IAEA of its intent to restrict entry for multiple agency inspectors responsible for conducting verification activities in Iran, stated IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi on Saturday. He expressed strong condemnation towards Iran's decision.

On Sunday, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani stated that his country will uphold its collaboration with the nuclear watchdog in accordance with the established agreements, without disclosing additional information.

Unveiling the True Cost of the US-Iran Prisoner Deal: What Lies Ahead

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Americans released from prison in Iran: How we got here

Mondays agreement, despite facing criticism from the US Republican Party, specifies that Iran is restricted to utilizing the released funds solely for humanitarian purposes. Furthermore, the Biden administration has emphasized that the transferred funds, now held in accounts in Qatar, will be strictly dedicated to humanitarian purchases and subject to monitoring by the US Treasury Department. However, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi declared in a recent interview with NBC that his government would exercise autonomy in deciding how and where to allocate the $6 billion.

When asked about whether the funds would be allocated towards humanitarian causes such as provision of essential supplies like food and medicine, Raisi responded by stating that "humanitarian refers to fulfilling the requirements of the Iranian people."

Therefore, this funding will be directed towards addressing those necessities, and the determination of the needs of the Iranian people will be made by the Iranian government, Raisi clarified.

Trita Parsi, the executive vice-president of the Quincy Institute in Washington, DC, stated that Qatar's role in overseeing the disbursed Iranian funds ensures that they will be utilized for humanitarian objectives. "Iran will not have direct access to these funds," he explained. "It will be the Qataris who will be responsible for managing and safeguarding them."

According to Parsi, whenever Iran seeks to utilize the funds to acquire essential items like food and medicine, they will need to obtain approval from the US prior to making any purchases. He further highlighted that the conditions outlined in the agreement are so stringent for Iran that they could be considered demeaning.

According to Parsi, the US administration's primary concern is being perceived as weak on Iran. To counterbalance the perception arising from their negotiation for the release of Americans, they are implementing additional sanctions and engaging in actions that portray them as extremely firm.