Five American detained inmates were returned to the United States by Iran in exchange for Iranian prisoners and billions of money being held in South Korea, as stated by President Joe Biden. The President also urged his fellow countrymen to avoid visiting Iran and called for a “full account” of what became of an American man named Bob Levinson, who was last seen in that country.
According to the White House, President Biden had an emotional call with the families of the Americans who had just returned home. U.S. officials said some ex-prisoners had been jailed for years on false charges, including espionage. Republicans were highly critical of the agreement, seeing it as akin to paying ransom to Tehran and opening the door for Iran to kidnap even more people.
The White House stated that it had to make difficult decisions to return American citizens home and urged people to avoid falling into the Islamic Republic’s trap in the future.
State Department official Antony Blinken also sounded a similar note of caution. Even though these Americans were released, the U.S. government still strongly advises against going to Iran, and future travelers to Iran do so at their own risk.
The President added that he would inquire about the whereabouts of Levinson, an ex-FBI agent who vanished in Kish Island, Iran, under suspicious circumstances and is now thought to be dead after being detained for years.
U.S. citizen Shahab Dalili was arrested in Iran in 2016 while attending his father’s burial, and the nonprofit organization Bring Our Families Home has petitioned President Biden to look into his situation. The group has asked Biden to negotiate to bring everyone home.
The prisoner swap gives Iran 6 billion dollars.
U.S. officials are adamant that the prisoner swap and thawing of financial ties with Iran did not pave the way for a broader diplomatic agreement. Iran’s nuclear program, its support of anti-American organizations in the area, its antipathy against Israel, and the continued imposition of economic sanctions by the United States all keep Washington and Tehran at odds.