Officials say 5 prisoners sought by the US in a swap with Iran have flown out of Tehran

In this photo released on Aug. 11, 2022, by the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani speaks in Teheran, Iran. Some $6 billion of Iranian assets once frozen in South Korea is in Qatar, a key element for a planned prisoner swap between Teheran and the United States, an Iranian official said Monday, Sept. 18, 2023 (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP, File)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Five prisoners sought by the U.S. in a swap with Iran flew out of Tehran on Monday, officials said, part of a deal that saw nearly $6 billion in Iranian assets unfrozen. Despite the deal, tensions are almost certain to remain high between the U.S. and Iran, which are locked in various disputes, including over Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran says the program is peaceful, but it now enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.

Flight-tracking data analyzed by The Associated Press showed a Qatar Airways flight take off from Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport, which has been used for exchanges in the past. Iranian state media soon after said the flight had left Tehran.

Two people, including a senior Biden administration official, said that the prisoners had left Tehran. They both spoke on condition of anonymity because the exchange was ongoing. In addition to the five freed Americans, two U.S. family members flew out of Tehran, according to the Biden administration official. The flight was expected to land in Doha, Qatar. Earlier, officials said that the exchange would take place after nearly $6 billion in once-frozen Iranian assets reached Qatar, a key element of the deal.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani was the first to acknowledge the swap would take place Monday, confirming the cash sought for the exchange that had been held by South Korea was in Qatar. “Fortunately Iran’s frozen assets in South Korea were released and God willing today the assets will start to be fully controlled by the government and the nation,” Kanaani said.

Comment: Critics claim this is paying ransom for hostages, even though the ransom was Iran’s money to begin with. Another criticism is that Iran now has $6 billion to fund Hezbollah, IRGC operations and weapons development. The administration counters with the limits imposed on spending this $6 billion only for humanitarian purposes, but money is fungible. I’m sure the $6 billion does not consist of marked bills. Plenty can be said for and against this. I prefer to celebrate the fact that five Americans are no longer in an Iranian prison. 


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10 Responses to Officials say 5 prisoners sought by the US in a swap with Iran have flown out of Tehran

  1. elkern says:

    Risky move by Biden. Who AIPAC will back (and fund) in the Republican Primaries?

  2. different clue says:

    We ( as in “America”) don’t have the power we used to have. More and more, some governments will take Americans hostage whenever they like for any old reason they feel like having. Or even just for the fun of it.

    The best thing we ( acting through our government) could do is to draw up a list of governments which have taken 1 or more Americans hostage over the last few ( however defined) years. We should declare these to be ” at your own risk” countries. As in, if you go to one of the “at your own risk” countries, you go at your own risk. If that country takes you hostage, there is not a thing we can do about it, and we won’t even try. If you are dumm enough to go to Iran, or Russia, or North Korea, or any other such country which starts taking Americans hostage; you will live out your life there as a hostage.

    We should saturate our airwaves, computer screens, bus-advertisements, billboards, etc. with this message. We should spend as many billions of dollars as necessary to make sure that no American is not saturated with 24/7 sensurround total-marination exposure to this message. That way, we can be sure that any American dumm enough to go to one of the “at your own risk” countries can be truly and fairly written off as having deliberately sought to win a Darwin Award by going to one of the countries on the “at your own risk” list.

    This should not be viewed as “punishing” the Hostage-Taker countries. This should be viewed as detaching ourselves from people who are so utterly and totally stupid as to go to these countries despite billions of dollars of warnings and advice about how they will not be rescued or even cared about if they go to one of the Hostage-Taker countries. This is about the lizard shedding its tail to save itself.

  3. Lars says:

    different clue: I agree. I would not even go to China.

  4. James says:

    Nobody seems to be talking about the 5 Iranian “hostages” that are no longer in US prisons and who were part of the swap. Were these 5+5 people hostages? Were they justly imprisoned? It would be nice if someone tried to take an even handed run at these questions but unfortunately that is not going to happen. I really miss the old New York Review of Books from before the Smith-Mundt “Modernization” Act.

    • TTG says:


      Of the five Iranians held by the US, four were convicted of smuggling restricted technology to Iran. One was just an unregistered agent of Iran. The US dropped all charges against the five. Of the five, two decided to return to Iran.

      • James says:


        Where smuggling is defined as “Tom imports component X into Qatar from USA, Bob buys component X from Tom, Bob ships component X to Iran” – but USA has announced they don’t want component X going to Iran. Bob is now guilty of smuggling. It’s a very extra-territorial definition of smuggling.

  5. Fred says:

    A wonderful precedent for Russia to follow to get Russia’s seized assets back.

  6. ked says:

    “A recent poll reveals that 3 out of 5 Iranians, if convicted and imprisoned on serious US Federal charges, prefer to remain in the USA after imprisonment, rather than return to Tehran for an intense welcoming celebration with Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”

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