A new report from the Wall Street Journal found that the Trump administration secretly reached out to the Iranian regime in December and proposed creating a direct channel with them to negotiate for the release of U.S. and Iranian nationals being held by both countries in what would be a potential prisoner swap.
The Wall Street Journal writes:
The Trump administration secretly reached out to Iran in December to propose creating a direct channel to negotiate the release of prisoners held by each side, according to U.S. officials and people briefed about the discussions, marking the first U.S. diplomatic overture to Iran on the issue under President Donald Trump.
However, Iran didn’t respond and, despite at least three subsequent offers from Washington, so far has refused to engage with U.S. officials on the offer, according to the people briefed about the discussions. The apparent impasse leaves uncertain the fate of at least four Americans currently in Iranian detention.
The Trump administration has continued to toughen its policy on Iran and Tehran’s illegal ballistic missile tests, including the government’s support for and spreading of terrorism throughout the Middle East through its proxies and with the help of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
President Trump has also been critical of former President Barack Obama’s prisoner swap in January 2016 when seven Iranians were exchanged for four Iranian-Americans detained in Iran over the fact that the U.S. released a $400 million payment to the Islamic Republic, delivered through pallets of cash, that was part of funds frozen by Washington while Iran’s late Shah was still in power.
There are reportedly somewhere around a dozen Iranians who are currently jailed in the United States on charges related to evasion of sanctions. However, Iran’s mission to the United Nations reportedly did not respond to an inquiry from the Wall Street Journal about how many of those dual Iranian nationals currently held in U.S. prisons Iran would seek to free in potential prisoner swap negotiations.
In July, Iran sentenced Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang, a U.S. national, to a ten-year prison sentence for spying and conducting research on the Qajar dynasty. Wang was arrested one year prior to that, on August 8, 2016.
In October, Baquer Namazi, 81, and his son Siamak, 47, were convicted of “cooperating with Iran’s enemies” and sentenced to ten years in prison, along with a $4.8 million fine. Baquer and Siamak were arrested in October 2015.