American-Iranian nationals Siamak Namazi and Morad Tahbaz are embraced by relatives after their release by Iran, Doha International Airport, Qatar, September 18, 2023 (Mohammed Dabbous/Reuters)
UPDATE, SEPT 20:
I joined Dublin NewsTalk’s Pat Kenny Show on Tuesday for more analysis of the significance of the release of US-Iranian political prisoners from Iran, and of the obstacles to a renewed deal over Tehran’s nuclear program.
As long as the Revolutionary Guards and the Supreme Leader’s office take a tough line, we will go round and round about whether it’s the Americans’ fault with sanctions or whether Iran could be moving to military use with its nuclear capabilities.
We also touch upon the complication of Iran’s supply of Shahed “kamikaze” drones for Russia’s attacks on Ukraine.
ORIGINAL ENTRY, SEPT 19: On Monday, the US and Iran completed a deal in which Tehran freed five American-Iranian political prisoners. In return, charges were dropped in the US against five Iranians — only two of whom chose to return to Iran — and $6 billion of Iranian assets were released from South Korea.
Chatting with Beverley O’Connor of The World on Australia’s ABC News, I review the deal and Iran’s overriding motive — its difficult economic position.
I caution that the exchange is unlikely to be the start of a deal to renew the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. Instead, tensions are rising over Tehran’s blocking of inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
We have two Irans in play here. One is the Foreign Ministry, which says a deal might occur. The other is that of the Revolutionary Guards and the Supreme Leader’s office, who are still hesitant about any talks with the Americans.
And I also emphasize that the Iranian leadership should not be allowed to deflect from nationwide protests for rights, reforms, and gender equality, just over a year after Mahsa Amini — seized by “morality police” for “inappropriate attire” — died in police custody.