Did Obama pay a ransom to Iran for our captured sailors?
One day after Iran released the 10 sailors they had abducted for strayinhg into Iranian territorial waters, the administration released $1.7 billion in taxpayer dollars to Iran. The money was part of a settlement of a decades old legal claim by Iran and came from a special fund that the executive department can tap to pay claims against the US.
Or was it a ransom paid for the kidnapped sailors?
The administration insists the timing of the released funds is coincidental. But legislation introduced in Congress now seeks to discover the truth of the matter.
The bill, jointly filed by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), comes on the heels of a Washington Free Beacon report disclosing that the Obama administration has been suppressing potentially “shocking” details related to the January abduction of the sailors, who were held at gunpoint by Iranian soldiers and forced to apologize on camera.
The legislation, dubbed the No Impunity for Iranian Aggression at Sea Act, would compel the Obama administration to issue a report to Congress detailing whether it paid Iran a $1.7 billion settlement as part of the hostage release. It also would level sanctions against Iran for possible breach of Geneva Convention rules governing legal military detainment.
Lawmakers and others have suspected for months that taxpayer money was partly used to secure the release of the sailors and other imprisoned Americans, though the administration has been adamant the issues are not linked.
The new legislation would require the White House to certify whether any federal funds, including January’s $1.7 billion payment, were doled out to Iran as part of a “ransom” to secure the release of these sailors and citizens imprisoned in Iran.
The legislation noted that the administration released the money to Iran just a day after it freed several U.S. citizens from prison.
The bill would further require the White House to determine if Iran’s treatment of the sailors—which included filming them crying—constitutes a violation of the Geneva Conventions or international laws governing innocent passage in international seas, according to the bill.
If it is determined that Iran violated either of these accords, the legislation would force the White House to list and sanction every Iranian complicit in the detainment.
Why would Congress disbelieve the president? Perhaps because the Iranians themselves are claiming the money was part of the deal to release the sailors.
A senior Iranian military commander said Wednesday that the cash settlement was reached as a perk to motivate Iranian authorities to free the imprisoned Americans, who were released over the weekend.
“The annulment of sanctions against Iran’s Bank Sepah and reclaiming of $1.7bln of Iran’s frozen assets after 36 years showed that the US doesn’t understand anything but the language of force,” Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the commander of Iran’s volunteer Basij forces, told the country’s state-controlled press.
“This money was returned for the freedom of the U.S. spy and it was not related to the [nuclear] negotiations,” he said.
Administration officials who spoke to the Free Beacon denied this characterization, saying that the settlement was reached outside of the nuclear agreement and not directly tied to Iran’s release of the five imprisoned Americans.
The final report on the incident has been continuously delayed by the Pentagon. A Congressman who has seen the details of the capture says that the American people will be shocked when the truth comes out:
The classified details behind Iran’s treatment of several U.S. sailors who were captured by the Islamic Republic during a tense standoff earlier this year are likely to shock the nation, according to one member of the House Armed Services Committee, who disclosed to the Washington Free Beacon that these details are currently being withheld by the Obama administration.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.) told the Free Beacon in an interview that the Obama administration is still keeping details of the maritime incident under wraps. It could be a year or longer before the American public receives a full accounting of the incident, in which several U.S. sailors were abducted at gunpoint by the Iranian military.
“I’ve had a full classified briefing” from military officials, Forbes told the Free Beacon. “It could be as long as a year before we actually get that released.”
Details of the abduction are likely to start an uproar in the nation and call into question the Obama administration’s handling of the incident, which many experts say violated international and maritime law.
The payment of ransom will only encourage future kidnappings by the Iranians. Beyond that, the mocking, sneering rhetoric from Tehran toward the United States and our weakness in the face of aggression shows that our grorveling response has emboldened the Iranians.
It really doesn't get much worse than this in bi-lateral relations.