On the same day that the IAEA confirmed Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, triggering substantial relief from EU and US sanctions, the US announced a separate prisoner release deal with Iran. Under the deal, the US offered clemency to 7 convicted or accused sanctions violators in the US, in exchange for the release of 5 Americans who were being detained in Iran, among them Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian who had been held since 2014. Of the 7 people offered clemency in the US, 6 are Iranian-Americans and one is Iranian. The US also agreed to drop charges against 14 people living outside of the US who were subject to Interpol red notices for their extradition.
Among the alleged violations committed by the 7 people offered clemency in the deal were shipping microelectronics to Iran, conspiring to provide satellite-related services to Iran, exporting American manufactured industrial products and services to Iran, planning to send military electronic and marine navigation equipment to Iran, and participation in a cyberattack against US defence contractor Arrow Tech. It has been reported that Iranian officials requested that more people be offered clemency, but the US insisted that no offers would be made to people facing charges for violent crimes or with connections to weapons of mass destruction.
Following the agreement, US officials suggested that a desire to avoid jeopardising the prisoner deal is what lay behind a decision to delay new ballistic missile sanctions on Iran that had originally been planned for December and were ultimately introduced this week (see previous blog).