Iranian President says country will 'decide what to do' with $6 billion released as part of prisoner swap deal

On Monday, five US prisoners were released by Iran as part of a prisoner swap deal and were seen boarding a plane in Tehran in the morning to fly back to America by way of Doha, Qatar.

According to the Daily Mail, three of the five US prisoners have been named publicly: Siamak Namazi, 51, Emad Shargi, 59, and Morad Tahbaz, 67, who also holds British citizenship.

In exchange, Iran is getting five Iranian prisoners, as well as $6 billion, which were oil revenues that had been frozen in a South Korean bank.

Being released to Iran are Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, Mehrdad Ansari, Amin Hasanzadeh, Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, and Kambiz Attar Kashani.

Under the agreement reached between the US and Iran, hosted in Doha with negotiators speaking through shuttle diplomacy, Doha agreed to monitor how Iran spends the billions of dollars to ensure it’s spent on humanitarian goods, not on things under US sanctions.

The Biden administration has insisted there are "guardrails" as to how Iran can spend the money, but Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said this week that Iran would decide how it’s spent.

"This money belongs to the Iranian people, the Iranian government, so the Islamic Republic of Iran will decide what to do with this money," Raisi said Tuesday in an interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt. "Humanitarian means whatever the Iranian people needs, so this money will be budgeted for those needs and the needs of the Iranian people will be decided and determined by the Iranian government."

The deal, which was reached early last week, comes as Iran announced on Saturday that it would be barring one-third of nuclear inspectors from monitoring the country’s atomic program, according to the Associated Press.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi said Iran had withdrawn the designation of "several experienced Agency inspectors."

"Iran has effectively removed about one-third of the core group of the agency’s most experienced inspectors designated for Iran," he said.

Grossi went on to "strongly condemn this disproportionate and unprecedented unilateral measure," adding that it "constitutes an unnecessary blow to an already strained relationship between the IAEA and Iran."

Afrasiabi was charged in 2021 with allegedly failing to register as a foreign agent while he was in the US on Iran’s behalf lobbying US officials on issues like nuclear policy.

Ansari was sentenced to 63 months in prison for obtaining equipment that could be used in nuclear weapons, electronic warfare, and other military gear.

Hasanzadeh was charged in 2019 with allegedly stealing engineering plans from his employer in the US to send to Iran.

Kafrani was charged in 2021 with allegedly unlawfully exporting laboratory equipment to Iran.

Kashani was sentenced to 30 months in prison in February for purchasing "sophisticated, top-tier US electronic equipment and software" through front companies in the UAE.

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