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This post was edited by dostoevskydr at 2016-8-3 17:10|
By Greg Richter |
Tuesday, 02 Aug 2016
The Obama White House airlifted $400 million worth of foreign cash to Iran just as Iran released four Americans it had been holding in prison, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The money was flown in secretly on wooden pallets in an unmarked cargo plane, but none of the cash was U.S. dollars. Instead, euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were withdrawn from central banks in the Netherlands and Switzerland.
The Journal quotes U.S. and European officials as well as congressional staffers who were later briefed on the operation.
American officials denied the payment was a quid pro quo for the release of the four Americans, though the plane loaded with cash reportedly landed on January 17, the same day the Americans were set free.
The cash was actually the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement between the Obama administration and Iran over a failed arms deal signed just prior to the 1979 fall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, administration officials say.
The Iranians reportedly insisted on cash because they said they had trouble making wire transfers.
"As we've made clear, the negotiations over the settlement of an outstanding claim … were completely separate from the discussions about returning our American citizens home," State Department spokesman John Kirby told the Journal. "Not only were the two negotiations separate, they were conducted by different teams on each side, including, in the case of The Hague claims, by technical experts involved in these negotiations for many years."
But Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, accused the White House of paying "a $1.7 billion ransom to the ayatollahs for U.S. hostages.
"This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures" of American citizens, Cotton said.
Americans are still being held by Iran's government, and their friends and family believe Iran is keeping them in an effort to get another cash payment, the Journal reports.
Congress, meanwhile is attempting to prevent Obama from making any more such payments.
"President Obama's … payment to Iran in January, which we now know will fund Iran’s military expansion, is an appalling example of executive branch governance," Sen. James Lankford, a Oklahoma Republican who co-wrote a bill to prevent further payments, said.