Iran, U.S. Negotiating Potential Prisoner Swap in Tandem With Nuclear Deal

Iranian officials said on Monday that they're working with the United States to negotiate a potential prisoner exchange in tandem with a nuclear deal.

The U.S. Justice Department said 16 Iranians are in U.S. facilities, while four Iranian American dual nationals are being held in Iran.

"These negotiations have progressed significantly and we are waiting for them to be summed up," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a news conference on Monday, according to Radio Free Europe.

The prisoner negotiations are happening in parallel with the nuclear talks in Vienna. The U.S. had not made a decision regarding the prisoners but Khatibzadeh said it might be because they're waiting on the results of the nuclear negotiations, according to Reuters.

"Now I believe some of them will be released, maybe five or six of them. But those talks about prisoners are not linked to the nuclear agreement, rather associated with it. This is a humanitarian measure by Iran," an Iranian official told Reuters.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Iran was ready for an immediate prisoner swap. However, U.S. negotiator Robert Malley said that unless Tehran frees four U.S. citizens Washington said it is holding hostage, it's unlikely they will reach an agreement.

Potential Prisoner Swap U.S. and Iran
Iranian officials said on Monday that they're working with the United States to negotiate a potential prisoner exchange in tandem with a nuclear deal. Above, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh speaks to media during a press conference in Tehran on November 15, 2021. Getty Images/AFP

"Iran has always and repeatedly expressed its readiness to exchange prisoners. Months ago we were ready to do it, but the Americans ruined the deal," a senior Iranian official previously told Reuters.

The 16 Iranian prisoners held in U.S. detention or on supervisor pretrial release consist of eight Iranian American dual nationals, four Iranian citizens with U.S. permanent residency and four Iranian citizens with no legal status in the U.S.

Three Iranian Americans are serving prison sentences for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran, while the fourth was sentenced for conspiring with Iranian officials to plot an assassination of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S.

The four Iranian citizens were charged with either violating U.S. sanctions, conspiracy to sell stolen credit card information online, or conspiring to sell heroin for distribution. Three of the four Iranian U.S. permanent residents were charged with U.S. sanction violations, and the fourth was charged with acting as an unregistered Iranian agent.

Meanwhile, the U.S. would likely be seeking the exchange of Iranian-American father and son Baquer and Siamak Namazi along with Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz, who are being held by Iran, according to Reuters.