Prisoner swap with US to help Iran loosen deadlock on nuclear program issue?

Nuclear Program Materials 15 June 2023 12:38 (UTC +04:00)
Prisoner swap with US to help Iran loosen deadlock on nuclear program issue?

BAKU, Azerbaijan, June 15. Iran and the US officials have had indirect talks recently, with mediation of such countries as Oman. After Iran announced in 2020 that it would not fulfill any of its obligations stipulated in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it would be safe to say that Iran's nuclear program has reached a knot and no common ground has been found to unravel this knot.

After the withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA in 2018, the Iranian side has repeatedly stated that no discussions with the US have been held, and will not be held if the US does not return to this plan.

But for several months now, Iran and the US have been discussing the issue of exchanging prisoners.

Just recently Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Al Busaidi said that currently, Iran and the US are very close to an agreement on the exchange of prisoners. It is estimated that there are only some technical issues left. Both sides have a framework and timetable for carrying out the prisoner exchange.

The exchange of prisoners could be an unlikely option to bring both the US and Iran closer to the most important matter - the nuclear program issue.The data shows that the US has 4 prisoners in Iran, and Iran has more than 10 prisoners in the US.

In the discussions between Iran and the US with the help of mediators, Iran is mainly trying to achieve the abolition of sanctions imposed by the US and Western countries, the removal of its funds frozen in foreign countries, and the abolition of the restriction on the export of crude oil. In return, the US and Western countries want Iran not to acquire an atomic bomb, to keep its nuclear program under control, and to reduce the level of uranium enrichment.

On May 8, 2018, the US announced its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the 5+1 group (Russia, China, the UK, France, the US, and Germany), and imposed new sanctions against Iran as of November 2018. Over the past period, the sanctions affected Iranian oil exports, more than 700 banks, companies, and individuals. The sanctions have resulted in the freezing of Iran's assets abroad.

Recently, Iranian media made a report about the unblocking of $24 billion of Iran's frozen assets abroad. Of that, more than $10 billion is expected to be unblocked in Iraq, while $7 billion is in South Korea.

Also, an agreement was reached that the Central Bank of Iran can receive more than $6.7 billion from the reserve asset (SDR) in the IMF.

According to the information obtained by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has increased the amount of highly enriched uranium by 27 percent in the last three months, and currently the country's enriched uranium reserves are 4,745 kilograms. This is 15 times more than the amount of uranium allowed for Iran in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

In January 2016, JCPOA was launched between Iran and the P5+1 group (US, Russia, China, UK, France, and Germany) in connection with Iran's nuclear program. In May 2018, the US announced its withdrawal from the deal and imposed sanctions on Iran in November of the same year. To preserve the agreements reached as part of the JCPOA, the European signatories of the deal started in January 2019 that a financial mechanism for maintaining trade with Iran called INSTEX was formed.

On May 8, 2019, Iran announced that it had ceased fulfilling its commitments regarding the sale of over 300 kilograms of uranium, as stated in the deal, basing its decision on the other signatories that have not fulfilled their obligations. On July 7, Iran announced that it will not be fulfilling its commitments regarding the enrichment of uranium at 3.67 percent and the reconstruction of the Arak Heavy Water Reactor Facility as stated in the deal.

Iran announced that it will enrich uranium using next-generation centrifuges and will not mix it with the enriched uranium residues as part of the third step of reducing commitments in JCPOA on Sept.5. On Nov. 5, 2019, Iran announced that it took the fourth step in connection with reducing its commitments to the nuclear agreement. So, uranium gas is being pumped to the centrifuges at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.

On Jan.2020, Iran took the last fifth step in reducing the number of its commitments within JCPOA.