Iran says it's ready for more prisoner swaps with the US

In today's Iran media review, Tehran says it is ready to exchange all prisoners if "the readiness is there from the opposing side."

al-monitor US Ambassador to Switzerland Edward McMullen greets Xiyue Wang in Zurich, Switzerland, Dec. 7, 2019. Photo by US Embassy in Switzerland/via REUTERS.

Jun 8, 2020

After the latest prisoner swap between Iran and the United States, Iranian officials said they are ready for more prisoner swaps with Washington.

Last week, Michael White was released from Iranian custody in exchange for Majid Taheri, who was held in US custody. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson played a major role in the negotiations for the prisoner swap. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested the talks to exchange prisoners took place “despite” the efforts of the Trump administration, which has taken a hard line with Iran. Iran and the United States do not have formal relations and the Swiss Embassy in Tehran often acts as a liaison. 

On June 7, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, “With the help of the Swiss government this exchange took place and for this reason it is necessary to thank the Swiss government. They took the responsibility of negotiations, otherwise there would be no direct negotiations between Iran and the US government.”

Mousavi continued, “Talks and consultations resulted in the releases. If there is a possibility for exchanges and the readiness is there from the opposing side, we are ready to free the other individuals imprisoned in the United States and bring them home.”

The Iranians held in the United States are typically charged with some form of sanctions violations. Iran has held American citizens and also dual citizens on charges of spying and other related charges. Iran continues to hold dual national Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, who is on furlough but inside the country. Iran is also holding wildlife conservationist Morad Tahbaz, a dual US-British citizen.

Spokesman for the Rouhani administration Ali Rabiei also said that Iran is ready for further prisoner exchanges. Rabiei said that recently three Iranian doctors had been returned to the country, including Sirous Asgari, who had been acquitted in a US court of sanctions violations, but detained after his acquittal. Rabiei continued, “I hope this process continues until all Iranian compatriots are released from the United States, and just as we said numerous times, Iran is ready to exchange all the prisoners and the United States is responsible for the delay.” 

Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said last week that the United States will continue to seek the release of other Americans held in Iran. He said, “When there is an opportunity that is presented that is able to advance our interests, then we follow that line of diplomacy for as far as we can take it.”

Many observers believe the outbreak of the coronavirus has expedited the prisoner swaps due to Iranian fears of having US prisoners die in their country due to the virus. Iran has been hit hard by the pandemic, and while the initial lockdown had a positive effect on the decrease of the number of virus carriers, since reopening the country there has been a surge in confirmed cases. In the last 24 hours, Iran had over 2,000 new coronavirus cases and 70 deaths. After bringing their numbers down to around a 1,000 new cases a day during the lockdown, the numbers have continued to increase with a high of over 3,500 cases on June 4.

Despite the rise in numbers, Iran has no plans to reimplement a lockdown and have instead decided to continue to open up. This week, all mosques in Tehran province will be reopened for Friday prayers.

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings

Recommended Articles

Google closes YouTube accounts linked to Iranian government
Al-Monitor Staff | Social Media | Aug 7, 2020
Israel's Liberman appoints himself project manager for Netanyahu’s removal
Mazal Mualem | Israeli elections | Aug 7, 2020
Gulf investment woes, COVID economic crisis converge in Egypt
Karen Young | Economy and trade | Aug 7, 2020
Beirut rallies to clear wreckage in wake of blast
Wael Taleb | Beirut explosion | Aug 6, 2020
Health workers in Syrian camp for ISIS families test positive for COVID-19
Al-Monitor Staff | Islamic State | Aug 6, 2020

More from  Iran

IRGC says Iran to ‘mobilize’ to help Lebanon after blast
Al-Monitor Staff | Beirut explosion | Aug 6, 2020
Why Iran could be approaching hyperinflation in coming years
Navid Kalhor | Economy and trade | Aug 9, 2020
Iran hangs protester despite calls to halt execution
Al-Monitor Staff | Human rights | Aug 5, 2020
Rouhani: Iran’s economy handled pandemic better than US
Al-Monitor Staff | Coronavirus | Aug 4, 2020