Iran, U.S. hostility 'still overt' despite Iran's funds unfrozen

A deal reached by the U.S. and Iran to unfreeze Iran's funds in banks of the Republic of Korea (ROK) doesn't mean Iran-U.S. relations have been unfrozen, on the contrary, hostility is still overt between the two countries due to 'structural contradictions,' according to a Chinese expert.

Iran's central bank chief Mohammad Reza Farzin on Saturday said in a post on social media platform X that nearly $6 billion Iranian funds frozen in ROK's banks over the past years had all been released after an emerging deal that led to the release of five Americans from prison to house arrest in Tehran.

The funds, which will be transferred to accounts in six Iranian banks in Qatar, can only be accessed for food, medicine and medical equipment that would not have a dual military use, White House spokesperson John Kirby said on Friday.

Farzin expressed his congratulations to the foreign exchange diplomacy team for successfully releasing seized foreign currency resources in the post.

Under the deal, the U.S. would also release some Iranians from U.S. prisons, Iran's mission to the United Nations said.

"The United States and Iran have their own needs behind the 'understandings,'" Su Xiaohui, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies, told China Media Group on Monday. "On the one hand, Iran is anxious to improve the environment for its development, and on the other hand, the U.S. has its domestic political necessity and fears that the security situation in the Middle East will get out of hand," said Su.

She noted that over the past few months, Oman and Qatar have acted as mediators to facilitate communication between the United States and Iran on the exchange of prisoners, resulting in a quid pro quo of sorts.

However, despite the U.S. and Iran have reached some understandings, the structural contradictions between the two countries have not yet been resolved, according to Su.

For the U.S., there is domestic opposition to the idea due to concerns that Iran could use unfrozen assets to invest in the development of its military forces, thereby acquiring additional capabilities that could threaten the U.S. and its allies. On the Iranian side, the key issues of the Iranian nuclear deal have not been discussed in previous negotiations, and sanctions still exist.

Tensions have boiled since then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal designed to curb Iran's atomic program. Negotiations between the Biden administration and Iran for resumption of the accord have failed.

After rounds of U.S. sanctions on Iran over the nuclear issue, ROK started to freeze Iran's assets in its banks in May 2019.

In response to questions relating to the deal with Iran, Kirby told media that "we're not in active negotiations about the nuclear program," and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that the deal does not mean that Iran would be getting any sanctions relief.

Concluding her analysis, Su said that "the hostile relationship between the U.S. and Iran is overt and the future is full of uncertainty."

(Cover: A street of Tehran, capital of Iran, June 8, 2023. /CFP)

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