The Obama administration paid Iran an additional $1.3 billion in cash after reports of a $400 million ransom payment.
The White House consistently defends the payments, saying the U.S. has to pay Iran in cash because economic sanctions prohibit a financial relationship between the two countries. “The form of those principal and interest payments—made in non-U.S. currency, in cash—was necessitated by the effectiveness of U.S. and international sanctions regimes over the last several years in isolating Iran from the international financial system,” a U.S. Department of the Treasury spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal.
The circumstances of the original 400 million dollar cash payment have led some critics to allege the administration paid ransom to Iran.
U.S. officials wouldn’t let a plane carrying $400 million take off for Iran until three U.S. prisoners departed Iran in January. The mechanics of the exchange all but confirm accusations that the $400 million was a ransom payment. Saeed Abedini, a former Iranian hostage, told The Wall Street Journal Iranian intelligence officials told him his plane could not take off until the movements of a second plane were confirmed. The second plane is likely the U.S. cargo plane carrying $400 million in cash.
Department of State spokesman John Kirby was forced to admit the link between the payments and the hostage release, but continued to insist it was not a ransom. Kirby told reporters Aug. 18, “We of course wanted to seek maximum leverage in this case as these two things came together at the same time.”
The $400 million was promised 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.
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps General Reza Naghdi further confirmed the ransom story in January, telling Iranian state media, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”
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