The US government has defended its decision to exchange five American prisoners held in Iran for five Iranian prisoners in the US, as well as to unfreeze $6 billion of Iranian funds that were blocked by US sanctions. The deal, which was announced on Monday, has faced fierce criticism from Republican lawmakers who accused President Joe Biden of paying ransom to a state sponsor of terrorism and endangering national security.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Tuesday that the administration had to make “real-life choices” to secure the release of the Americans, who had been detained in Iran for various charges, including espionage and violating sanctions. He said that Iran would not have freed them “out of the goodness of their heart” and that the US had to engage in “tough negotiations” to bring them home.
Miller also dismissed the claims that the US was giving money to Iran, saying that the $6 billion were Iranian funds that had been frozen in South Korea due to US sanctions. He said that Iran would only be able to use the money for humanitarian purposes, such as food and medicine, and that the US would monitor its spending. He added that the deal was not linked to the ongoing talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which the US withdrew from under former President Donald Trump.