Washington, DC – The prisoner swap between the United States and Iran is a step towards de-escalating tensions between the two countries, experts say, but it does not point to an imminent thaw in frosty relations.
Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran programme at the Middle East Institute think tank in Washington, DC, called the prisoner exchange a “transactional deal”.
The agreement also included the release of five Iranian prisoners in the US and the unfreezing of $6bn in Iranian funds blocked in South Korea due to American sanctions.
“Everybody is basically reconciling themselves with the fact that the best they can do for now is to take small steps toward preventing a crisis,” Vatanka told Al Jazeera.
“So that’s all it is. There is no big vision being articulated by anybody that could tell us that something in terms of a breakthrough is in the pipeline. There is no sign of that.”
Five American citizens previously detained in Iran were flown out of the country on Monday as part of the agreement, which was facilitated by Qatar and other countries.
They landed in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Monday afternoon and were expected to be “soon be reunited with their loved ones—after enduring years of agony, uncertainty, and suffering”, US President Joe Biden said in a statement.
But as Biden and other members of his administration hailed the release of the detained Americans, US officials have said repeatedly that the prisoner deal will not change Washington’s approach to Tehran.