Obama administration defends $400 million ‘ransom’ payment to Iran
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest denied $400 million paid to the Iranians was linked to the release of prisoners in January, saying the payment settled a longstanding dispute between the two countries from before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
US officials sent an unmarked cargo plane loaded with Euros, Swiss, Francs and other currencies, suggesting that the payment may have been related to the release of five Americans, which included Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini.
“Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, according to these officials. The U.S. procured the money from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland,” wrote reporters Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee.
“The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi,” they wrote.
“The United States, under President Obama, has not paid a ransom to secure the release of Americans unjustly detained in Iran and we’re not going to pay a ransom,” he said.
“They’re struggling to justify their opposition to our engagement with Iran,” Earnest said of critical Republicans at a White House press briefing.
State Department spokesman John Kirby responded to the claims on Wednesday, vehemently denying any link.
“As we’ve made clear, the negotiations over the settlement of an outstanding claim at the Hague Tribunal were completely separate from the discussions about returning our American citizens home,” he said.
“Not only were the two negotiations separate, they were conducted by different teams on each side, including, in the case of the Hague claims, by technical experts involved in these negotiations for many years,” Kirby said.
The Department of Justice spokesman said in a statement: “The Department of Justice fully supported the ultimate outcome of the Administration’s resolution of several issues with Iran, including Hague settlement efforts, as well as the return of U.S. citizens detained in Iran. We will not comment further on internal interagency deliberations.”
“Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk,” Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said in a statement. “While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages.”
Former House Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., isn’t buying that explanation one bit.
“Absolutely it’s a ransom payment,” Hoekstra told WND. “This is a president that has all along been willing to negotiate and make a deal, and if the deal included ransom he has been open to it.”
“If it walks like a duck, if it talks like a duck, it’s a duck. This is a ransom payment,” he said.
An Ohio Republican Bill Johnson said he will ask to appoint a special committee to investigate what he called a “very serious violation of American policy.”
“For decades, American foreign policy has been to not pay ransom for hostages, because to do so only encourages more kidnapping of Americans,” Johnson said in a statement.
“Not only did the Obama administration violate this common-sense policy, it did so secretly.
The four released Americans are Rezaian; Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine; Abedini; and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari.