On Wednesday, the Biden White House defended a deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran to unfreeze billions of dollars in funds in exchange for American prisoners, stating it was not a ransom payment.
“This is not a payment of any kind. This is not a ransom. These are not U.S. taxpayer dollars. And we have not lifted a single one of our sanctions on Iran. Iran will be getting no sanctions relief,” said John Kirby, White House spokesperson on national security issues said in a recent briefing with reporters.
“We will continue to counter the Iran regime’s human rights abuses. We’ll continue to counter its destabilizing actions abroad,” he added.
Recently, the United States reached a deal to transfer $6 billion in frozen Iranian oil funds that were being held by South Korea to release five Iranians who were being held in U.S. prison in exchange for five American citizens.
“The Biden Administration is gaslighting us,” said Andrew Ghalili, a senior policy analyst at the National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI).
“Whether the White House wants to acknowledge it or not, the regime and America’s other enemies around the world will see this as a ransom payment. They can say there’s no sanctions relief, but the regime is rightfully sanctioned and was restricted from accessing this money until we allowed them to through this deal,” Ghalili told The Foreign Desk.
Kirby stressed that the unfrozen funds were not American taxpayer dollars, adding that the money would be subject to U.S. oversight.
“I am always glad when Americans are released from captivity,” South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said. “However, this agreement will entice rogue regimes, like Iran, to take even more Americans hostage. The ayatollah and his henchmen are terrorists and truly represent a terrorist state.”
“If we are paying a billion dollars per kidnapped individual, then you are going to see more kidnappings. That is why you do not negotiate with terrorists, that is why you do not negotiate with kidnappers. The idea of basically paying to release, in this effect, a hostage is a terrible idea,” said Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney.
Kirby pushed back on the notion that bad actors like those in Iran do not need additional incentive to detain Americans.
“This is the deal that we were able to strike to secure the release of five Americans,” Kirby said. “It would be great, wonderful, if we could just pick up the phone, call the Mullahs, and say, ‘Hey, we want our Americans back. Send them back on the next plane,'” he added. “But you and I both know that is not going to happen, particularly with Iran. And getting Americans home requires decisions. Sometimes really tough decisions.”
“The reality is that this is an additional $6 billion+ for a regime that spends its money on terrorism, drones for Russia to kill Ukrainians with, and brutalizing the Iranian people,” Ghalili told The Foreign Desk.