US Helped Release Iranian Prisoners As Sweetener For Nuclear Talks




The Obama administration helped to secure the release of several Iranians detained in the United States and the United Kingdom, some convicted of illegal arms smuggling, according to a report that comes as U.S. prisoners languish in Iranian jails.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that, as part of a “wish list” Iran presented to the United States in 2009 before the current nuclear negotiations, U.S. officials helped expedite the release of four Iranian prisoners in 2012 and 2013. Three were convicted of illegally sending arms or other banned materials to Iran while the international community sought to enforce sanctions on the country’s nuclear program.

U.S. officials said that some of the prisoners had already served their full sentences, though authorities worked with Oman—a Persian Gulf country that helped facilitate the first clandestine nuclear talks between the United States and Iran—to swiftly return them to Tehran. One of the Iranian detainees, Mojtaba Atarodi, a scientist, reentered Tehran just days after he was convicted of transporting illicit materials to the country.

The releases of the four Iranians might have helped obtain the freedom of three American hikers who were imprisoned in Iran and released in 2011. American officials denied that any prisoner swaps occurred. But as the final deadline for the nuclear talks swiftly approaches, at least three other Americans are still held by Tehran. If a deal is reached without their release, U.S. officials face the prospect of having helped free convicted Iranian smugglers while Americans remain in jail—on what critics say are spurious charges. More

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