Under the agreement between the US and Iran, $6 billion in Iranian funds that had been held in restricted accounts in South Korea was transferred to restricted accounts in banks in Qatar. Iranian and US officials were notified by Qatar on Monday that the transfer had taken place, according to a source briefed on details of the matter.
Sources told CNN the funds came from oil sales that were allowed and placed into accounts set up under the Trump administration. Biden administration officials have stressed that the funds that have been transferred to the accounts in Qatar will only be able to be used by Iran for humanitarian purchases and each transaction will be monitored by the US Treasury Department.
“We are implementing this arrangement through the establishment of what we are calling the humanitarian channel in Qatar,” which is designed to protect against money laundering and misuse of the funds, the first senior administration official said.
The agreement, which has already prompted criticism from Republicans, also involves the release of five Iranians in US custody.
The first senior administration official noted that two of the five Iranians had served a majority of their sentences; the other three were awaiting trial and had not yet been convicted.
The overall contours of the release protest began to crystallize in Doha about seven months ago after years of indirect negotiations. The first tangible public steps under the deal took place about five weeks ago, when four of the Americans were transferred into house arrest. The fifth American was already under house arrest.
As a result, the US had to pursue indirect avenues, relying on partners in the Middle East and Europe including Qatar, Oman, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, all of whom served as interlocutors for the two sides over the course of negotiations.
It was Qatar who served as the key broker for the ultimate deal, as Iranian and US negotiators would gather in separate hotels – within sight of each other – in Doha as Qatari diplomats shuttled back and forth and the details were hammered out.
In the weeks following the transfer into house arrest, US officials stressed that the final discussions were ongoing and sensitive. And in that time, the Swiss ambassador to Iran made regular visits to the Americans to check on their conditions, the senior administration official said. Switzerland serves as the US protecting power in Iran since the US does not have a diplomatic presence there.
Senior administration officials would not discuss when US President Joe Biden signed off on the deal and pushed back on critics of the deal.