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State Dept: $400M Payment Was Contingent on Release of Prisoners

Image: State Dept: $400M Payment Was Contingent on Release of Prisoners

 Freed Americans land in Geneva on Jan. 17. (Richard Juilliart/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 18 Aug 2016 04:04 PM

The State Department now says a $400 million cash payment to Iran was contingent on the release of American prisoners.

Spokesman John Kirby says negotiations over the United States' returning Iranian money from a decades-old account was conducted separately from the prisoner talks. But he says the U.S. withheld delivery of the cash as leverage until the U.S. citizens had left Iran.

Both events occurred Jan. 17.

Kirby spoke after The Wall Street Journal reported that the departures of the crisscrossing planes were linked.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said that the report confirmed "what many of us have suspected all along: the $400 million payment to Iran was a ransom payment for four Americans unlawfully held by the ayatollahs.

"We now know the extraordinary lengths to which the Obama administration went to ensure this payment happened, including lifting sanctions on Iranian Air just one day before the transfer.

"Unfortunately, it’s not just the American people who received confirmation: it’s also terrorist groups and our adversaries around the world who know the United States will pay cold, hard cash for hostages," said Cotton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Again and again, this administration gets caught dodging and weaving to avoid the truth.

"But the echo chamber isn’t going to help the president here. When my Senate colleagues and I get back into session, the administration will no longer be able to hide from giving Americans straight answers."

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who sits on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said that the report underscored "a long pattern of troubling concessions made to Iran by the Obama administration that have yet to yield any meaningful shift in Iran's dangerous and destabilizing behavior.

"Sadly, it appears that the Obama administration is once again putting the interests of Iran, the world’s chief state sponsor of terror according to the State Department, ahead of the national security interests of the American people," he said.

The Republican National Committee called Kirby’s admission “a complete contradiction of what they were saying just two weeks ago.

“It’s time for the Obama White House to drop the charade and admit it paid a ransom to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” said spokesman Michael Short. “Hillary Clinton’s support for this dangerous blunder, which has put a price on the head of every American citizen, shows once again she does not have the judgment to be president.”

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, defended the administration.

"The facts are clear," she told Jake Tapper on CNN. "This was a negotiation over a 1979 sale. It was Iranian money that was frozen. The agreement was that the $400 million be returned to Iran.

"They were going to release hostages that we would have very much liked released.

"Will we send the money before or after they are released?" Feinstein asked. "I know what I would do: It would be after they are released — and that is exactly what the administration did.

"It was very much the right thing."

Former Florida Rep. Allen West said that calling the payment "ransom" would be "very difficult to say unless you are the Obama administration.

"We know that when Pastor Saeed Abedini [one of the five freed Americans] asked his captors what were they waiting on, they told him the release of another aircraft," West, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, told Stuart Varney on Fox News.

"We know that there were not two separate diplomatic channels, which is what the Obama administration told us."

West said that the U.S. did not need to honor the 1979 agreement to unfreeze the funds because the deal was made with the later-deposed Shah of Iran.

"We owe nothing to this current Islamic regime that overthrew the Shah, that took our hostages, that bombed the Beirut barracks in 1983.

"For the president of the United States of America to choose this moment to send this money back to them, it just shows that it's tied to the release of those hostages," West said, noting that other Americans remain captive in Tehran.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The State Department says a $400 million cash payment to Iran was contingent on the release of American prisoners.Spokesman John Kirby says negotiations over the United States' returning Iranian money from a decades-old account was conducted separately from the prisoner...
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2016-04-18
Thursday, 18 Aug 2016 04:04 PM
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