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Will US-Iran prisoner exchange jumpstart diplomacy at UNGA?

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi delivers remarks at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at U.N. headquarters on Sept. 21, 2022 in New York City.

Iran nuclear program takes spotlight at UNGA  

Both US President Joe Biden and his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, will address the UN General Assembly meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 19. A long-awaited US-Iran prisoner exchange is expected to take place in the coming days, prior to the speeches.   

While the exchange of prisoners — five will be freed by each side, as Elizabeth Hagedorn reported — seems straightforward, as far as these types of exchanges go, the Biden administration is being pilloried by Republican critics for the release of $6 billion owed to Iran from South Korean banks, as Adam Lucente reports. Those funds were frozen under US sanctions in 2018, when the Trump administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). They have now been transferred to a restricted account overseen by Qatar.

Prior to the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran had abided to its terms of the deal. Since then, Iran has moved closer to the nuclear weapons threshold, reducing the breakout time from years to months.  

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