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State Dept Calls $400 Million Payment To Iran ‘Leverage’

REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The Department of State admitted Thursday it held onto $400 million in cash destined for Iran as “leverage” until Iran released American prisoners.

State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday, “The payment of the $400 million was not done until after the prisoners were released.”

“We took advantage of that to make sure we had the maximum leverage possible to get our people out and get them out safely,” he added, according to a report from Reuters.

The end result was the release of three American prisoners, who left via a plane from Tehran on January 16, which is the day the nuclear agreement came into effect.

Following the release of the prisoners, the Obama administration said on January 17 it was sending over $400 million in cash to Iran. Since Iran is under international sanction, the government had no choice but to receive the funds in cash.

The Obama administration has argued for months that the $400 million payment was not in fact a “ransom” delivered in exchange for the release of American prisoners, maintaining instead the payment was the first of a series of payments the U.S. owes Iran for military equipment never delivered.

Unfortunately for the administration, not many buy its line that the payment wasn’t ransom, especially because it has now admitted a link between the payment and the release of Americans.

Executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Mark Dubowitz, said the State Department essentially admitted the payment was ransom.

“They can continue holding Americans against their will until the next White House cash payment,” Dubowitz told The Washington Post. “It is a dangerous precedent, and one that puts all Americans abroad in danger.”

GOP Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, also interpreted the Kirby’s statement as fulfilling the definition of ransom.

“It was ransom. We now know it was ransom,” Royce said. “And on top of that it put more American lives at risk. And we’ve emboldened Iran. We’ve encouraged them, frankly, to take more hostages and put more American lives at risk of being taken hostage.”

Republicans aren’t willing to simply let the issue die. GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has requested Kerry come before the committee to explain the deal and the supposed ransom in more detail.

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