While administration officials continue to insist no ransom paid for hostages, Iran says differently
The administration's continued insistence that it didn't pay $400 million in cash to ransom American prisoners in Iran is looking ridiculous in the face of Iranian statements in the past and the way most other nations interpreted the payment.
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.”
If the money wasn't ransom, why not send it via normal banking channels?
"I would also add that the way this was done looks like an illicit financial transaction,” said Schanzer. He noted that transporting the cash, which was made up of mostly Euros and Swiss Francs, covertly as opposed to using standard banking channels was likely intended to “evade” U.S. sanctions.
“This was the sort of thing that used to earn our enemies new sanctions,” said Schanzer. “Now its being characterized by the White House as statecraft.”
Earnest has insisted that the mysterious cash transfer was due to the U.S. and Iran not having a formal banking relationship, and was not intended to be secret. He did not say how the remaining $1.3 billion would be paid out.
If it was not intended to be secret, why did the administration keep the transaction from the House and Senate intelligence committees?
One of the hostages claims that his plane sat on the runway for hours waiting for the plane with the $400 million in cash:
Saeed Abidini: I just remember the night at the airport sitting for hours and hours there and I asked police— why you not letting us go – And he told me we are waiting for another plane and if that plane take off we gonna let you go.
Trish Regan: You slept there at the airport?
Abidini: Yes, for a night. They told us you going to be there for 20 minutes but it took hours and hours. And I ask them why you don’t let us go, because the – was there, pilot was there, everyone was there to leave the country. And he said we are waiting for another plane so if that plane doesn’t come we never let us go.
When the Iranians and most of the rest of the world believes that ransom was paid to get our hostages released, the administration simply doesn't have a leg to stand on. They can claim no ransom was paid until they are blue in the face and it won't change the facts.
President Obama is fond of saying Republicans refuse to accept reality. The administration not only refuses to accept reality in this case, they are actively lying to the American people.