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US waives sanctions to allow transfer of Iranian assets from South Korea

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Picture: Saul Loeb/AFP/Taken August 9, 2023 – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. With the waiver, banks in Europe (Switzerland, Ireland, and Germany) will be able to convert the money received from South Korea and transfer it to a bank in Qatar without being subjected to US sanctions. The money will be kept in Qatar for use by Iran to buy non-sanctioned goods from the international market, the writer says.

By Peoples Dispatch

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed a sanctions waiver to allow banks in South Korea to release US$6 billion of Iranian money. The money has been held there since the US imposed numerous sanctions on Iran following its unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

Though the waiver was signed late last week, it was only on Monday, September 11, that the US Congress was notified of the decision, claimed a report in the AP on Tuesday.

The US, under the presidency of Donald Trump, unilaterally withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and subsequently imposed numerous unilateral sanctions on Iran. South Korean banks had withheld Iranian money fearing the impact of US sanctions.

With the waiver, banks in Europe (Switzerland, Ireland, and Germany) will be able to convert the money received from South Korea and transfer it to a bank in Qatar without being subjected to US sanctions. The money will be kept in Qatar for use by Iran to buy non-sanctioned goods from the international market.

Last month, a deal between the US and Iran was signed for the exchange of prisoners. Under the deal, the US will release five Iranian prisoners from its jails in exchange for Iran releasing the same number of US citizens held in its prisons. Iran has already transferred the five US prisoners to house arrest. All five are facing charges related to espionage and some of them have been tried and convicted by Iranian courts.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry completely denied the claim made by AP that the sanctions waiver was part of the prisoner exchange deal. Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian said that the unfreezing of Iranian assets had nothing to do with the prisoner exchange and that it was an altogether separate humanitarian deal, Iranian Press Tv reported. He also said that the process of transfer of Iranian money from South Korea had started on August 10 and would be completed in several phases.

This article was first published in Peoples Dispatch