Iran has freed four dual-nationality prisoners, including an American/Iranian pastor and an American/Iranian Washington Post reporter who had been accused of working for the U.S. to foment regime change in Iran. The release was part of a prisoner swap, in which seven Iranians imprisoned in the U.S. over sanction violations were also freed. A fifthAmerican was freed by Iran outside of the swap.
Within hours of the release, devastating international sanctions on Iran were lifted after international inspectors verified its compliance with the terms of last year’s nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers.
Taken together, the prisoner swap, Iran’s compliance with its nuclear-deal commitments, and the sanction relief mark what may be a historic thaw in relations between the U.S. and Iran. This, however, should not be exaggerated, as the U.S. continues many belligerent policies directed at Iran, especially in the realm of proxy warfare (see below).
The developments at least mark a short term political triumph for the chief negotiators of the nuclear deal: the administrations of U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani was elected on the basis of his campaign promise to negotiate detente with the U.S. and to accomplish economic relief from sanctions for the Iranian people. Parliamentary elections in Iran will be held late next month, making the lifting of the sanctions exceedingly well-timed for Rouhani’s political party.
Conversely, the thaw is a supreme setback to Rouhani’s political rivals, the hardliners in Iran who have strenuously opposed the nuclear deal.
The hardliners in the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia are certainly furious as well.