Iran demands $4 million to release Lebanese-American resident
Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Iran's ransom demand of $4 million to release a Lebanese-American permanent resident was entirely predictable based on our payment of $1.7 billion in cash for the release of other Americans in Iranian custody earlier this year.
"Just as I feared, the Iranian regime now has more American hostages and wants more money," Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., told the Washington Examiner Wednesday.
"The Obama administration's $1.7 billion cash payment to Iran wasn't just bad policy — it put additional lives at risk. ... Iran should release all American hostages immediately and unconditionally," said Royce.
Royce also noted that President Obama threatened to veto his bill to bar additional "ransom payments." Obama argued at the time that the measure is aimed at solving a problem, the "so-called ransom payments, that does not exist."
Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese citizen and permanent resident of the United States, has been imprisoned in Iran for more than a year and last month was sentenced to 10 years in Iranian prison on charges of spying, which he denies.
On Tuesday, Zakka said through his attorney that Iranian officials told him it would take $4 million from the U.S. to win his release, and that he would remain in prison until the payment his made.
Royce and other Republicans have argued for months that the Obama administration has given an incentive to Iran to take and host hostages in return for ransom payments by timing out a $400 million cash payment to Iran in January in order to ensure the release of four American hostages, along with a $1.3 billion cash payment just days later.
The administration is refusing to acknowledge that the Iranians view these payments as "ransom." This denial of reality is surreal in the face of facts that totally contradict the administration's narrative:
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who formerly chaired the House Foreign Affairs panel, said Wednesday that the prisoners held in Iran are "pawns in a dangerous game as Iran continues to use the nuclear deal as leverage to extract more and more concessions from the U.S."
"The obvious consequence of paying ransom to terrorists is that you have just demonstrated that hostage taking can be financially beneficial," she told the Examiner. "The administration and all responsible nations must take a stand and take immediate action to secure the unconditional release of all hostages and put an end to Iran's repeated violations of human rights."
Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said the Obama administration's view of the $1.7 billion in cash payment matters far less than what the Iranians think about it.
"What was more important to ask is whether the Iranians viewed it that way [as a ransom payment]," he said. "And now, it appears clear that they do."
The main reason for the administration's delusions about the ransom is the fear that making Iran mad will cause them to nix the nuclear deal, thus destroying President Obama's "legacy." So the president pretends the money going to Iran has nothing to do with any ransom demands while the Iranians gleefully gorge themselves on cash and seize more Americans.
Frankly, any American citizen or American holding dual citizenship with Iran who travels there should have his head examined. It's debatable whether the taxpayer should be paying ransom for the return of people who should have known better about showing up in Iran in the first place.
But as long as Iran threatens to leave the nuclear deal if we don't keep it happy, the Obama administration will continue to pay the "non-ransom" to Iran and be humiliated by the fanatics in Tehran.