The Obama administration continues to deny that a $400 million cash payment to the Iranian regime in January was a ransom for American captives released that month — even though the Iranian regime has described it as such.
On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the cash was delivered in secret, like a super villain scene in a James Bond movie: “Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane.”
It was only the first installment of $1.7 billion that was purportedly owed to Iran to settle claims predating the fall of the Shah in 1979.
Since the days of President Thomas Jefferson, when American sailors were kidnapped by marauding Muslim pirates, the U.S. has resisted paying ransom to free its citizens, lest that create an incentive to kidnap more of them. That is exactly what Iran has done, seizing several more Americans since the beginning of the year, including a California man last month.
In January, White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the Iran deal, including the $1.7 billion payment, as “Exhibit A in the administration pursuing tough, principled diplomacy in a way that actually ends up making the American people safer and advancing the interests of the United States more effectively than military action.”
Yet Obama was ashamed enough to carry out the swap in secret, using foreign currency because of U.S. sanctions that prevent dealing with the regime in U.S. dollars.
At the time, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) warned that the deal “put a price on the head of every American abroad.” Other Republican presidential candidates made similar criticisms.
Following the news of how the cash was delivered, members of Congress, who have sought details about the payment for months, reacted angrily.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) said: “We were right in January 2016 to describe the Administraion’s $1.7 billion transfer to Iran as a ransom payment. Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk. While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and Reza Shahini.”
The Obama administration insists Iran will use the money for infrastructure, not to fund its worldwide terror operations.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.