In a highly anticipated prisoner exchange, a plane carrying five American prisoners released by Iran has landed in the Qatari capital, Doha. The former detainees, Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Sharghi, and two citizens who wish to remain private, disembarked the plane at Doha International Airport, where they were greeted by both US and Qatari officials. Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from the airport, described a visible sense of relief among the former prisoners and emphasized their imminent return to the US.
Meanwhile, two of the five Iranians imprisoned by the US have already arrived in Qatar, where they will transit on to Iran. However, the three other released Iranians have decided against returning to Iran. Two have chosen to stay in the US, while one will proceed to a third country. This prisoner exchange was made possible by the agreement between the US and Iran, which also led to the unfreezing of $6 billion in Iranian assets held in South Korea.
US President Joe Biden expressed his appreciation for the return of the five citizens and thanked the allies involved in securing their release. He named the individuals involved and acknowledged the years of agony, uncertainty, and suffering they endured. Biden recognized the tireless efforts of partners both at home and abroad, including the governments of Qatar, Oman, Switzerland, and South Korea.
However, Biden also cautioned US citizens about the risks of traveling to Iran, stating that Washington cannot guarantee their freedom if detained. He advised American passport holders to avoid traveling to the country. The White House has faced criticism from Republicans and some Democrats for the prisoner exchange, with concerns raised about potential repercussions and further detentions.
Responding to the criticism, Al Jazeera's Kimberly Halkett highlighted the Biden administration's repeated emphasis on prioritizing the release of US citizens imprisoned abroad. She noted that anyone with a family member in detention would want them brought home, and that this was Biden's top priority. Halkett explained that the opportunity to secure their release was presented to Biden, and he seized it.
As this is a developing story, further updates are expected to follow.
themes: Joe Biden Washington