'Not a Ransom': White House Defends Controversial Prisoner Swap With Iran

September 13, 2023

The White House on Wednesday defended a U.S.-Iran prisoner swap deal that has drawn criticism from Republicans, saying Iran gets no U.S. sanctions relief from the deal.

The United States on Monday waived sanctions to allow the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar, a step needed to carry out a previously announced U.S.-Iran prisoner swap, according to a U.S. document seen by Reuters.

"This is not a payment of any kind. It's not a ransom. These aren't U.S. taxpayer dollars. We haven't lifted a single one of our sanctions on Iran," John Kirby, the White House national security spokesperson, told reporters.

Republican lawmakers criticized the White House for making the deal, saying it incentivizes Iran to take American hostages.

"I am always glad when Americans are released from captivity," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), said Monday. "However, this agreement will entice rogue regimes, like Iran, to take even more Americans hostage. The ayatollah and his henchmen are terrorists and truly represent a terrorist state."

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Published under: Iran , John Kirby