WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday pushed back on Iranian claims that the United States and Iran were nearing a deal to exchange prisoners.
“There's no deal,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters. “And the last thing that we want to do is give false hope to families that have been waiting for a long time for their loved ones to come home.”
The US is seeking the release of three Americans held in Iran: Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz. A number of US residents, including Shahab Dalili and Jamshid Sharmahd, are also detained on charges their families say are baseless.
On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told state media that an agreement on the prisoners had been reached, and “if everything goes well on the American side, then I think we will see the exchange of prisoners soon.” Iran’s top diplomat added that a deal between Iran and the United States had been “indirectly signed and approved” since March 2022.
The Iranians have long claimed they are ready to strike a prisoner deal, reportedly in exchange for the release of billions of dollars of Iranian assets that are frozen abroad under US sanctions.
Amir-Abdollahian’s comment comes more than two years after the Biden administration began indirect talks with Tehran over a possible prisoner exchange. Because Iran refuses to negotiate directly with the United States, the two sides have relied on interlocutors including Oman, Qatar and the United Kingdom.
In a CNN phone interview from inside Iran’s notorious Evin prison on Thursday, Namazi urged President Joe Biden to put the “liberty of innocent Americans above politics.”
“I remain deeply worried that the White House just doesn’t appreciate how dire our situation has become,” said Namazi, currently the longest-held American prisoner in Iran.
On Sunday, Ali Bagheri Kani, a deputy Iranian foreign minister, visited Oman, a longtime mediator between Washington and Iran. Muscat helped secure the release of Siamak Namazi’s father, Baquer Namazi, who was freed from Iranian house arrest in October so that he could receive urgent medical treatment abroad.