[guest post by Dana]
It is being reported that Iran has released four U.S. prisoners in a prisoner swap. For its part, the U.S. released 7 Iranians being held on sanctions-related charges:
Iran announced Saturday that it had released four Iranian-Americans as part of a prisoner exchange with the United States, a move that came as the United States and Iran were negotiating the final steps before the expected lifting of oil and financial sanctions related to its nuclear program.
*Roughly $150 billion…
Obama administration officials confirmed the prisoner-swap arrangement, calling it the result of diplomacy that intensified after the nuclear deal had been reached last July.
“Upon the conclusion of the nuclear deal we were able to accelerate our efforts,” one senior administration official said.
The dismantlement, mandated by the nuclear accord reached last summer, was finished within the past day, as Iran rushed to get the sanctions relief before elections next month. But swapping the prisoners — including a Washington Post reporter held on vague charges — also removed a major irritant between the United States and Iran.
The prisoners released include Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent; Amir Hekmati, a Marine veteran; Saeed Abedini, a pastor; and Nosratollah Khosrawi.
Officials in Vienna said that the prisoner swap and the nuclear deal were related, but only loosely. Mr. Kerry clearly wanted to be able to tell many critics of the deal in Congress that he had gotten more than just the nuclear concessions; he wanted to make the case that the new channels of communication between Tehran and Washington were proving fruitful in other areas.
He argued last week that his relationship with Mr. Zarif helped resolve the case of the 10 American soldiers who were arrested after their two boats went into Iranian territorial waters. Now he can say that the prisoner swap, which has been the subject of secret negotiations for months, was another benefit.