Washington reached a deal with Tehran on Thursday to release five Iranian Americans, whom the Islamic Republic detained evidently on trumped-up charges. In exchange for the five being released to house arrest, the United States freed up $6 billion worth of Iranian oil and released Iranian prisoners.
Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, applauded the release of the unjustly detained prisoners, though said it comes at a very high cost, which could be counterproductive.
“Paying $6 billion in ransom payments means the regime will only take more hostages. This has become a lucrative means of international extortion for Iran’s supreme leader,” Dubowitz wrote in an FDD analysis.
The Islamic Republic won’t use that $6 billion for humanitarian work, he predicted.
“In the real world, where cash is fungible, it will free up $6 billion to be used for terrorism, funding drones for Russia, domestic repression and nuclear-weapons expansion,” he wrote. “Only when the regime is severely punished for illegally seizing hostages, not rewarded with billions in ransom payments, will it put a stop to these humanitarian abuses.”
Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at FDD, agreed. “This is not a prisoner exchange; it’s the largest hostage ransom payment in American history,” he wrote. “This money isn’t for humanitarian relief; it’s budget support to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”
Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a presidential candidate, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that “Biden is shamefully caving to Iran’s blackmail and extortion. Rewarding Iran for taking Americans hostage incentivizes more hostage-taking.”
“The $6 billion ransom payment will help Iran build nuclear weapons, support terrorism, oppress the Iranian people and assist Russia,” DeSantis added. “Biden’s appeasement and weakness emboldens Iran to attack us and our allies and facilitates Iran becoming closer than ever to nuclear weapons.”
In a statement on Thursday, Adrienne Watson, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, called it “encouraging” that Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi (and two Americans who did not want to be named) were released to house arrest. She noted that the five individuals should never have been detained at all.
“We will continue to monitor their condition as closely as possible,” she stated. “We will not rest until they are all back home in the United States.”
When he was a member of Congress, Ted Deutch, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, represented Robert Levinson, whom Iran took hostage in 2007 and who is said to be the longest-held U.S. hostage. (Levinson has been presumed dead.)
Deutch stated that he is “encouraged” by the news that the five are closer to coming home.
“The administration is right in demanding that no funds made available to Iran as a result of this exchange will be used by Iran to pursue its malign activities at home or throughout the region,” he stated.
“But we are under no illusion that this will be sufficient to stop it from exploiting the arrangement to pursue its aggressive and destabilizing activities,” he added. “AJC continues to urge the world to stand against Iran’s support of terror, its human-rights violations and its illicit pursuit of nuclear weapons.”