Opinion

Obama’s Ransom Payment Opened The Door To Future Hostage Crises

For decades, it has been the policy of the U.S. government to not pay ransom for hostages, because to do so only encourages more kidnappings of Americans.  Recently, we learned of a $400 million payment to Iran that “coincided” with the release of four Americans – the same Iran that remains on the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Not only did the Obama Administration violate this common-sense policy, they did so secretly. Only then, after word leaked out, did they try to deny that a ransom payment was made to the Iranian regime, through a rapidly deteriorating series of “clarifications.”

Now, finally, the State Department has admitted there was a link between the cash payment and the release of the American prisoners. Although they still won’t call it a ransom, it sounds a lot like the actual definition of the word in the dictionary: “money that is paid to free someone who has been captured or kidnapped.”

It was always highly unlikely that the hostages were coincidentally released on the same day the cash in an unmarked cargo plane landed in Iran. Now we have confirmation that the U.S. government paid a ransom, even if that same government doesn’t want to use the word.

And, to nobody’s surprise, since the ransom was paid, Iran has taken two new hostages – no doubt an attempt to procure future ransom payments.

You may recall the “historic” nuclear deal that President Obama signed with Iran last year. I opposed that nuclear deal for many reasons, and I questioned at the time why the hostages weren’t being released before these negotiations even started – now we know. Iran believes they can do whatever they want. President Obama won’t stand up to them – the Iranians know that he views the nuclear deal as one of the major triumphs of his presidency, and he will go to any length to preserve it – and the American people are forced to live with the consequences.

President Obama has done more to weaken America’s credibility internationally and reduce our influence globally than any President in our history.  And, if his ignorance of our adversaries wasn’t troubling enough, he may now have broken our laws to placate them.

Putting aside the longstanding policy of not paying ransoms, the Justice Department strongly objected to the cash payment. Why? Because it was likely illegal. The case was laid out very clearly by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy McCarthy in a recent National Review piece. Sanctions in place prohibit transactions with Iran that involve the U.S. financial system, regardless of whether they are carried out in U.S. dollars or other currencies. No matter – the payment was made anyways. And as usual, the Obama Administration is not giving forthright answers about this situation.

What is Iran doing with their windfall? Likely some of that money is going to Syria in various forms. It will also likely be used to fund Iran’s military expansion and its terrorist surrogates around the world, which is unwelcome news across the Middle East.

I will call on the Speaker of the House to appoint a special investigation committee to get all the facts on this very serious violation of American policy.

This whole situation sounds a little too familiar – a statement from this administration that directly contradicts reality:  you can keep your doctor and health care plan costs would be going down, that the attacks on Benghazi were caused by a video, that lobbyists wouldn’t be welcome as part of the Obama Administration, that the President didn’t set a “red line” in Syria, or even how the Iran nuclear deal went down.

Dishonesty paired with incompetence is a dangerous recipe.  Unfortunately, it’s one that President Obama and his Administration, with the help of the Washington liberal elite, have perfected.

Paying ransom for hostages to a hostile regime like Iran will have future consequences, and it will be the American people who will suffer the ramifications.

Congressman Bill Johnson has served as U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 6th Congressional district since 2011. Johnson sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Budget Committee.