US Imposes New Sanctions on Iran, Tehran Responds Ready to Swap Prisoners

The Executive Order that President Trump signed on Monday imposes new sanctions on Iran, which already buckled, responding later that day that it was now prepared for a full prisoner swap to release American prisoners.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a conference call with the Council on Foreign Relations, declared the Islamic Republic would now be open to a full prisoner swap.

Iran has long been a thorn in the side of the U.S. and the countries of the Middle East — besides its nuclear threat and aggressive actions, Iran also has a history of keeping U.S. prisoners, including an Iranian-American father and son, Baquer and Siamak Namazi, currently being held on suspicion of espionage.

Iran claims the U.S. has been holding its prisoners for breaking sanctions and refusing to betray Iran.

“There are Iranians in U.S. prisons who are there only because they refuse to betray their country (Iran). We are prepared to exchange all of them and all those who have been kept in jail,” Zarif said on Monday.

“I repeat, we can exchange all prisoners. Period.”

The U.S. has previously exchanged prisoners with Iran on a case by case basis.

U.S. Navy veteran Michael White returned home in June after being detained since 2018 in exchange for an Iranian-American physician Majid Taheri to visit Iran. White said he contracted COVID-19 while in detention in Iran.

The breakthrough on prisoner swaps came as a sign that the Trump Administration’s strategy on Iran worked to bring Tehran to the negotiating table.

The signing of the Executive Order on Monday by U.S. President Donald J. Trump further disrupted Iranian efforts to import and proliferate conventional weapons.

This move will help protect U.S. forces, allies and partners. It will also help civilian populations until Iran chooses to comply with international norms.

Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark Esper described the EO to the media from the State Department, along with other officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Representative to the United Nations Kelly Craft and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.

Esper said that Iran has carried out attacks on international shipping, regional infrastructure and U.S. and partner nation forces, including missile strikes by Iranian-backed proxy militias against U.S. bases and personnel in Iraq.

Due to this threat, the Defense Department has taken decisive action to safeguard service members and restore deterrence, Esper said. This also safeguards international rules and norms when it comes to issues such as freedom of navigation and commerce.

Esper said that Iran has violated U.N. Security Council resolutions for years by proliferating advanced, conventional weapons to non-state actors such as Hezbollah and the Houthis, who use them to threaten civilian population centers.

“We encourage Tehran to cease its malign activities throughout the region and to act like a normal country. But we are also prepared to respond to Iranian aggression,” Esper said. “Our commanders have the authorities and resources they need to protect their troops and to prepare for any contingencies and we continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and partners to counter Iran’s destabilizing behavior.”

Esper said the U.S. military maintains a high state of alert because of Iran, making continual adjustments to its operational forces in the region as needed. The military is also working with intelligence agencies, allies and partners.

“We stand ready to respond to future Iranian aggression and we remain committed to doing our part in the administration’s maximum pressure campaign,” Esper said.

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