WASHINGTON (TND) — 5 Americans and dual nationals were freed from a prison in Iran Monday after a controversial trade between U.S. and Iranian officials.
The agreement includes giving Iran access to $6 billion of its own money that had been frozen up as part of U.S.-led economic sanctions against the country.
It has also been highly criticized by Republicans, who characterize the deal as "giving" Iran the money so it can use it to sponsor terrorist groups in the Middle East.
Sina Azodi, who was born in Tehran and is now a lecturer of international affairs at George Washington University told Sinclair, “I think a lot of people and some people intentionally mischaracterize the words that we are giving the Iranians $6 billion. But again, we all have to keep in mind that as repugnant and abhorrent as their actions are, at the end of the day it is their own money being used to release American hostages in Iran.
“Using the word 'ransom' is inherently wrong because that money is coming from the pockets of Iranians themselves," he added.
The U.S State Department assures those funds will not be used for nefarious purposes, but there is reason for skepticism.
Matt Levitt, director of the Counterterrorism Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy explained, “Even though under this deal the money is only supposed to be used for humanitarian goods and the countries are supposedly going to be able to have some oversight on that. Even if that actually ends up being the case, Iranian officials have already said very publicly, we're going to use this money for whatever we want.”
Trust is minimal for a foe whose leaders and citizens have routinely chanted "Death to America," and critics argue the country will be encouraged to take more Americans in light of this latest deal.
The second thing is how do we stop this cycle,? Because every time we do this, it further incentivizes the next round of kidnapping of dual nationals," Levitt explained.
As for the issue around the newly available financial assets, experts say while the $6 billion may be limited to humanitarian purposes, it just frees up Iran to use other money in ways that make the world less safe.
Still, the State Department has said complex deals aren’t always without downsides.
Iran is not going to release these American citizens out of the goodness of their hearts," Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the State Department said during a briefing Tuesday. That is not real life. That is not how this works. That was never going to happen.
Also Monday, the White House reminded Americans of the risks of travel to Iran. In a statement from President Joe Biden, he cited State Department advice, writing, “Do not travel to Iran due to the risk of kidnapping and the arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens. All Americans should heed those words and have no expectation that their release can be secured if they do not."
Some say an unseemly trade off is just the cost of doing business, even if that price tag is in the billions.