© 2024 254 North Front Street, Suite 300, Wilmington, NC 28401 | 910.343.1640
News Classical 91.3 Wilmington 92.7 Wilmington 96.7 Southport
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Diplomacy Centers On Reviving Iran Nuclear Deal, U.S. Prisoner Releases


The U.S. and Iran appear to be inching back into the nuclear deal that the Trump administration abandoned. There's also some hope that Iran will soon release some of the foreign nationals they've been holding. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Though the U.S. and Iran are not talking directly, the Biden administration says it is using the channels it has to raise the cases of Americans that they say are wrongfully held by Iran. White House press secretary Jen Psaki calls it a priority that is separate from the nuclear talks.


JEN PSAKI: We always raise this issue, but there's no agreement at this time on the release of these four Americans.

KELEMEN: She denies reports in Iranian media that Iran will release detainees in exchange for billions of dollars in frozen accounts. But Iranians have been holding out the prospects for such a deal. For instance, Iran wants the British government to pay back money owed for tanks that were bought but never delivered in the 1970s. And Iran has linked that to the fate of a British woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says he's working intensively to secure her release.


DOMINIC RAAB: And the reports, I'm afraid, are not yet accurate in terms of her - the suggestion of her imminent release.

KELEMEN: Family members are awaiting news. Lawyer Jared Genser represents Iranian American Siamak Namazi, who was left behind in a prisoner swap in 2016 as the nuclear deal was going into effect.

JARED GENSER: This is always touch-and-go. And until the American hostages are on an airplane and leaving Iranian airspace, you know, it isn't real and it hasn't happened.

KELEMEN: But Genser is hoping that Namazi, his father and two other Americans are released as the U.S. and Iran work to get back into compliance with the nuclear deal. He says there are active negotiations through European diplomats.

GENSER: Both on the issue of the nuclear deal and the return to the nuclear deal for the United States and on a parallel and unrelated track in relation to the exchange of potential prisoners in both directions.

KELEMEN: The Obama and Trump administrations got some Americans out of Iran by releasing some Iranians who were held here for violating sanctions. That could be part of a new deal. But Secretary of State Antony Blinken is working with other countries to try to stop Iran from this long practice of arresting foreign citizens for leverage.


ANTONY BLINKEN: And I would hope that, with time and effort, countries could establish a norm that this practice is simply unacceptable because it is.

KELEMEN: Critics of the Biden administration also don't want to see Iran get any money for releasing prisoners. One way to improve the optics would be to release any frozen funds to a humanitarian channel meant to benefit average Iranians, not the government.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.