President Barack Obama credited “strong American diplomacy” for Iran’s release of five American hostages on January 17, but it turns out he just paid Iran $400 million dollars the same day they were released.
The Obama administration authorized a secret airlift of wooden pallets stacked with various currencies totaling $400 million to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the exact same day the hostages were released, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The day the five hostages were released, Obama held up the release as an example of what was possible with his restoration of relations with Iran. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised “the relationships forged and the diplomatic channels unlocked over the course of the nuclear talks.”
The $400 million was promised by the U.S. to Iran under a larger $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration made with Iran. The Shah of Iran reportedly paid billions of dollars for weapons that the U.S. never delivered after the Islamic revolution in 1979. Obama agreed to repatriate the money, saying the U.S. would likely have to pay the sum back under a Hague arbitration settlement, and that his solution would save taxpayers money.
The White House strongly pressed back that the same-day payment was a ransom payment, characterizing it as purely coincidental.
“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,” Department of State Spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
The White House tried to push the narrative that the payment was separate from any hostage negotiations, but admitted at the time, the hostage release was deeply interconnected to the nuclear deal.
“With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well,” Obama said on January 17.
Since the $400 million deal, Iran has detained two other Iranian-American citizens, which some believe is to ensure they receive the balance of the $1.7 billion deal.
The White House also acknowledged Wednesday that some of the $400 million payment could be used by Iran to fund terrorism. Iran funds terrorist groups in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Iran has also provided lethal assistance to terrorist groups in Iraq, and has been definitively linked to hundreds of U.S. troop deaths in Iraq.
Iranian General Mohammad Reza Naghdi all but confirmed the arrangement telling Iran’s state media after the deal was reached, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”
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