GOP Cries Foul over Supposedly Secret Ransom Paid to Iran that Wasn’t Secret or a Ransom

by Meteor Blades –

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The Wall Street Journal treated it as a scoop. Republicans, including GOP Party Chairman Reince Priebus, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, and Donald Trump are using it as a cudgel to pound on the Obama administration, taking special aim at Hillary Clinton.

The claim—first published by the Journal Tuesday evening—is that the United States secretly paid Iran a ransom of $1.7 billion, $400 million of it in cash, for the release in January of four American citizens the Tehran government had imprisoned. One of those was Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post correspondent.

The United States released seven imprisoned Iranians at the same time as the Americans were released as part of a prisoner swap. A fifth American was also released at the time, but was not part of the swap.

The only part of the Journal story that is new, however, is the revelation that cash was used as part of the payment, and that there were secret arrangements for collecting Swiss francs and other foreign currencies and loading them onto pallets for the unmarked cargo-plane trip to Tehran. The payment itself was announced and reported in the press seven months ago.

In fact, the White House noted in a January response to critics that the payment had nothing to do with prisoner releases, but rather was a settlement dating back to a disputed 1979 U.S.-Iranian arrangement that was interrupted by the Iranian revolution. In other words, the $400 million was Iran’s money that had been sequestered for more than 35 years by the United States.

Republicans nonetheless see this as another opportunity to blast the administration for both the international nuclear deal with Iran and also to claim that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are weak on terrorism.

Donald Trump, who knows less about foreign policy than a D- 9th grader, tweeted: “Our incompetent Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was the one who started talks to give 400 million dollars, in cash, to Iran. Scandal!”

And here’s Priebus making a big deal of the story Wednesday:

”The Obama-Clinton foreign policy not only means cutting a dangerous nuclear deal with the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorist, it also means paying them a secret ransom with cargo planes full of cash. This reckless arrangement is not only a major breach of longstanding U.S. policy, it also means millions of dollars potentially finding their way into the pockets of terrorist organizations while putting a price on the head of every American. This secret deal with Iran only shows how comfortable the Obama Administration is hiding the truth from the American people. […]

“While our weak posture toward Iran undermines our interests, we cannot forget that Hillary Clinton was the initial of this dangerous approach by spearheading the disastrous nuclear deal.”

Except, to reiterate, the so-called secret deal wasn’t secret. Both The New York Times and The Hill reported on it in January at the same time the nuclear accord with Iran was implemented.

Julian Hattem at The Hill wrote in the paper’s January 19 edition that White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Republican claims that Washington had paid a ransom was “wrong”:

In addition to the implementation of the international nuclear accord and a prisoner swap to secure the release of five Americans, the Obama administration also sent Iran $1.7 billion that it had been owed for decades.

Roughly $400 million had been sitting in “an escrow account” since the Iranian revolution in 1979, Earnest said on Tuesday.

On Sunday, the U.S. paid that money back, as well as $1.3 billion in interest.

Paid the money back. That is, gave Iran what had always been Iran’s, plus interest.

Earnest noted that the Iranians had for years been asking for $8-$10 billion as part of the settlement for the money it was owed plus interest, and that the $1.7 billion was a result of tough negotiating on the part of the White House.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos