The Obama administration has spent the last several days claiming that a $400 million cash payment to the Islamic Republic of Iran had nothing to do with the coinciding release of four American hostages, but Iranian officials stated quite the opposite seven months ago.
“This money was returned for the freedom of the U.S. spy [Jason Rezaian] and it was not related to the [nuclear] negotiations,” said Iranian Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the head of Iran’s paramilitary Basij force, in January. Jason Rezaian, a reporter for the Washington Post, was one of the four American hostages released by the Islamic Republic.
The Daily Caller News Foundation had previously reported on the alleged ransom in January. At the time, the event was considered a prisoner swap, as the U.S. had agreed to release seven Iranian nationals in custody for violating U.S. sanctions. President Barack Obama described the swap as a “good day” and the result of “strong American diplomacy.”
Iran has taken two U.S. citizens captive since the January prisoner release and subsequent payment.
The substantial sum was sent to Iran in the form of pallets of euros and Swiss francs in an unmarked cargo plane at almost the exact same time as the prisoners were released in January, according to a Wall Street Journal report. U.S. officials have not stated when the money arrived in the Iranian capital of Tehran, but Iran’s government-run Tasnim news agency has reported that the prisoners were released the same day.
Administration officials have reacted indignantly to the claim that the payment was a ransom. President Obama reiterated that the U.S. does not pay ransom for hostages in a Pentagon briefing Thursday afternoon.
“The timing of this, despite administration protests to the contrary, suggests that this was a ransom payment,” Jonathan Schanzer, an expert on terrorism finance and the vice president of research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told The Daily Caller News Foundation Thursday. “And even if this was not what the administration intended, it certainly looks that way to the Iranians.”
Obama maintained the claim that the $400 million was sent to Iran as part of a completely separate deal regarding the settlement of an Iranian deposit into a Pentagon trust fund before the Islamic Revolution. The U.S. had previously agreed to pay the Islamic $1.7 billion to settle the issue. Administration officials have not said how the remaining $1.4 billion balance will be repaid.
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