Conservatives slammed President Barack Obama's contention Thursday that progress was being made in the military fight against the Islamic State, and scoffed at the president's defense of the $400 million cash payment to Iran—with South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan calling it "blood money."
"Despite President Obama's best attempts to paint his failures as victories, the fact is his ineffective strategy has produced a stronger ISIS, a weaker America, and a more dangerous world," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said.
Priebus was responding sharply to President Obama's Pentagon news conference.
"According to the president's own counterterrorism officials, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of places around the world where ISIS is operating since 2014," the chairman said.
"As the alarming rise in attacks around the world and here at home show, President Obama has underestimated this threat at every turn, having called ISIS a 'JV team,' claiming before the attack in Paris that the group was 'contained,' and even admitting at one point that he had no strategy at all."
At the news conference, Obama had touted progress by the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS and bristled at assertions the $400 million paid under the Iran nuclear deal was ransom for four American hostages.
"This wasn't some nefarious deal," President Obama said. "It wasn't a secret. We were completely open about it."
The payment, along with $1.3 billion in interest that would be paid later, was announced by the administration when it was concluded in January, Obama said, a day after the nuclear deal was implemented.
"The only bit of news is that we paid cash," the president said. "The reason is because we couldn't send them a check, and we couldn't wire the money.
"We don't have a banking relationship with Iran, which is part of the pressure we applied on them."
South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan strongly opposed the payment to Iran.
"The Obama administration, seemingly without any concern or worry, funneled money around U.S. law through foreign central banks to provide a state sponsor of terrorism with $400 million in blood money for American hostages," Duncan said. "Iran is a nation with American blood on its hands.
"They have directly aided in the killing of American soldiers in the Iraq War, funded the killing of Israeli citizens through Hamas and Hezbollah, and celebrated the death and destruction of everything America holds dear.
"Their foreign policy is to destabilize the world — and the Obama administration is subsidizing anarchy and terrorism in the Middle East."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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