Iran will not release five American hostages until a "ransom" payment of nearly $6 billion reaches regime bank accounts, state-backed media reported on Friday.
Mohammad Jamshidi, deputy chief of staff for political affairs to Iran's president Ebrahim Raisi, stated that billions in sanctioned oil assets held by South Korea are being released to the accounts; however, US prisoners will not be released until all of the funds are transferred, according to a source quoted by the Islamic Republic News Agency, as the New York Post reported.
“It is important to note that prisoners sought by the United States still remain in Iran,” the Islamic Republic’s Foreign Ministry said in a Friday statement after acknowledging the transfers had begun.
Officials in Tehran placed the American hostages under house arrest on Thursday as part of an agreement that will reportedly result in the release of several Iranians from U.S. prisons and the regime's ability to use unfrozen funds for humanitarian purposes through an account at the Qatari central bank.
However, a senior counsel to Iran's nuclear negotiating team stated online that Tehran would have "full and direct access to its released assets."
“[T]here will be no Qatari companies involved, Iranian banks will have full control, and they can purchase goods and services without any limitation or restriction,” Seyed Mohammad Marandi declared on X, formerly known as Twitter.
White House Response
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson described the agreement as "encouraging" but stated that "negotiations" for US citizens detained in Iran "remain active and delicate."
"We will continue to monitor their condition as closely as possible," she stated in a statement released on Thursday. "Of course, we will not rest until they are all back home in the United States," Watson added.
Also on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated, "This is just the beginning of a process that I hope and expect will lead to their return home to the United States," adding, "There’s more work to be done to actually bring them home. My belief is that this is the beginning of the end of their nightmare.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2024, criticized President Biden for authorizing "the largest ransom payment in American history to the Mullahs of Tehran."
“Iran will now use this money to produce drones for Russia and fund terrorism against us and Israel,” he posted on X. “China and Russia, who are also holding Americans hostages, now know the price has just gone up.”
Former Trump administration officials, such as former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton, criticized the agreement.