Light Wave


5 Yanks freed from Iran in controversial $6B prisoner swap

By Jake Beardslee · September 19, 2023

In brief…

  • Five Americans were freed from Iran in a prisoner exchange after years in detention.
  • The U.S. released five Iranians along with unfreezing $6 billion Iranian assets.
  • The deal drew criticism from top Republicans for "rewarding bad behavior."
  • Biden pledged to keep up pressure on Iran detainee issues going forward.
  • Iran's President called the swap a possible "trust-building" step amid tensions over Tehran's nuclear program.
The U.S. secured the release of 5 Americans detained for years in Iran in a controversial prisoner swap that also unfroze $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets.  Farsnews/Wikimedia

The U.S. and Iran announced a prisoner swap Monday, with five Americans detained in Iran being released in exchange for five Iranians in U.S. custody. In addition, the U.S. unfroze nearly $6 billion in Iranian assets.

Regarding the release of Americans Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi, Morad Tahbaz and two others, President Biden said, “Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home.”

The exchange involved the U.S. allowing South Korea to unfreeze $5.9 billion in Iranian assets and transfer the funds to an account in Qatar to be used only for humanitarian purposes such as food and medicine.

In their statements, the released Americans thanked supporters for advocating for their freedom.

“I would not be free today if it wasn’t for all of you who didn’t allow the world to forget me,” Namazi said.

The deal drew sharp criticism from Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, who called it “absolutely ridiculous.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Biden of “rewarding and incentivizing Tehran’s bad behavior.”

Iran President Raisi said the swap “can definitely help in building trust” between the nations, but tensions remain high over Iran’s nuclear program and role in supporting global terrorism. 

Biden said he would continue pressing for “accountability for Iran and other regimes for the cruel practice of wrongful detention” while urging Americans not to travel to Iran.

U.S. officials maintained that five Iranians released in the prisoner swap pose no threat to American national security.