Nasser Kanaani, spokesperson of Iran's foreign ministry

Iran Says Prisoner Swap Deal With US Stopped

Saturday, 02/18/2023

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani has said Washington is using a “carrot and stick” strategy trying to weaken Tehran’s will to resist its demands.

He also claimed that negotiations for a prisoner exchange are in limbo because “the American government did not act according to its promises.”

Kanaani visited the offices of the hardliner Mehr news website Saturday and spoke with the editorial staff about issues related to nuclear talks and American’s held in Iran.

“The West led by America has adopted a policy of attrition in negotiations, whereby they use every means of pressure, including instigating protests and [continuing] sanctions,” Kanaani said.

He insisted that Washington is indirectly communicating with Tehran, but parallel to talks it uses every means of pressure possible to bring Iran’s tolerance to the breaking point. Among these pressures, Kanaani also mentioned the Iranian opposition that he claimed has “no stature among the Iranian people.”

Tehran’s regime has been badly rattled by more than five months of popular anti-regime protests, with prominent activists in the diaspora uniting and calling for regime change in Iran. These activists have announced that their goal is putting pressure on Western government to support the protests, including listing the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization in Europe.

Kanaani (C) visiting Mehr News Agency on Feb. 18, 2023

NBC News reported February 15 that indirect negotiations were taking place for a possible prisoner exchange between the United States and the Islamic Republic. The report said that the two sides were exploring ways that could include a prisoner exchange and the release of $7 billion of frozen Iranian funds by South Korea. Apparently the talks were taking place as recently as this week, when US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley met with Omanis, a regular intermediary between Washington and Tehran.

NBC also reported that the release of the funds would be on the condition that the money will used for purchasing food, reminiscent of ‘food-for-oil’ arrangement during Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq in the 1990s.

Iran’s hardliner and anti-Western ruler Ali Khamenei would hardly accept such a condition, which would be humiliating for him and the regime that has already lost a lot of credibility in the eyes of a highly dissatisfied population.

Kanaani who said Iranian citizens arrested in the West for violating US sanctions should be freed, which would be at the heart of a “prisoner exchange” deal.

In fact foreigners held in Tehran are hostages who have been arrested on trumped-up charges and convicted in sham trials.

Kanaani also seemed to demand the release of a former Iranian diplomat convicted on terrorism charges and imprisoned in Belgium. Assadollah Asadi, an Iranian diplomat in Austria was arrested for plotting a 2018 bombing of an opposition rally in Paris and later convicted to a 25-year jail term.

The Biden Administration assumed office pledging to return to the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) with Iran that former President Donald Trump has abandoned in 2018 and imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic. After 18 months of talks with Iran, the diplomatic process came to a dead-end last September, with the US saying that it is no longer focused on reviving the accord.

In the meantime, anti-regime protests and a sharp deterioration in Iran’s economic situation has put the clerical regime under tremendous pressure. A prisoner deal could perhaps ease tensions and lead to more talks, Tehran hopes.

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