The Wall Street Journal reports that the administration procured the money from central banks in the Netherlands and Switzerland. It was stacked on wooden pallets and flown to Tehran in an unmarked cargo plane. The money represents the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement that the administration reached with Iran to resolve a failed arms deal that was signed before the Iranian revolution in 1979.
On January 17th, President Obama announced the deal, but failed to indicate the $400 million cash ransom, “With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well.” Senior officials deny any relation between the settlement payment and the release of the prisoners citing it as pure coincidence.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a recent press release concerning the deal that the negotiations over the “outstanding claim” were completely separate from the talks about releasing the American citizens.
“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 stated.
A fierce republican opponent of the Iran deal, Sen. Tom Cotton, accused Obama of paying “a $1.7 billion ransom to the ayatollahs for U.S. hostages.” He went on to say, “This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures.”
Since the payment of this ransom, Iran has arrested two more Americans as well as dual-nationals of France, Canada and the U.K. in recent months. U.S. Officials have stated that they were afraid of losing the deal as Iran was asking for more then $10 billion and described the settlement as a bargain for taxpayers.
What is most alarming is that the payment was made using foreign currency because it is illegal for the US to have any transactions with the with Iran in US dollars. “Sometimes the Iranians want cash because it’s so hard for them to access things in the international financial system,” said a senior U.S. official. “They know it can take months just to figure out how to wire money from one place to another.”
The Obama administration has refused to answer question by Congress on how it paid any of the $1.7 billion dollar settlement other than claiming that it “wasn’t paid in US dollars”.
H/T [Wall Street Journal]