On Tuesday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) introduced legislation to prevent and ensure that the United States will never again makes ransom payments, or other cash payouts, to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The “Prohibiting Future Ransom Payments to Iran Act (HR 5931)” has three main objectives:
- It makes clear that the Obama Administration violated longstanding U.S. policy by releasing prisoners and paying ransom for the return of Americans held hostage by Iran;
- it prohibits cash payments to Iran—period; and
- it demands transparency in future settlements to ensure they are not used to pay ransom.
The Iranian regime is the world’d leading state sponsor of terrorism.
Royce issued the following statement upon the bill’s introduction:
The Obama administration forked over a massive cash ransom to Iran, emboldening the world’s leading state sponsor of terror and putting more lives at risk. All of this was done in secret, hidden from the American people and from Congress. This bill will ensure it doesn’t happen again.
The resolution also states that Pastor Saeed Abedini, one of the U.S. citizens who was released as part of that exchange, “stated that Iranian officials explained a delay in their departure was due to the status of another plane.”
On Tuesday, Abedini once again confirmed this in an interview with Breitbart News.
Abedini said the his Iranian captors told him their belief that “the U.S. is playing with us and that if the other plane from Switzerland doesn’t arrive, you are going back to prison.” Abedini told Breitbart News that he thought they were playing a psychological game with him, as they had often in the past.
This time, they were not. The plane arrived, and he and the other three prisoners were released.
Abedini said he “did not believe that the U.S. government would pay money for the release of prisoners. I already told my family that I don’t want us to be exchanged for Iranian criminals who are imprisoned in the U.S.,” he told Breitbart News. “I never thought there was going to be another plane with money,” he said adding that he would have preferred to remain in prison than be part of such a humiliating exchange.
It is illegal for the U.S. government to pay ransom for hostages to be released from foreign captivity. It provides an an incentive for hostage-takers to repeat this behavior in the future. It is, in essence, rewarding bad behavior.
In the one-page summary provided by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on this issue, Royce points out that President Barack Obama “had rejected the advice of his own Justice Department and ignored a longstanding U.S. policy not to release prisoners or pay ransom in exchange for the return of Americans held hostage abroad. Even the State Department now admits this payment was ‘leverage’ for the release of American hostages.”
On Wednesday, Royce said “what’s worse than a $400 million cash ransom to Iran” is “a $1.7 billion cash ransom to Iran.” He issued the statement in response to news that the Obama administration had paid the entire $1.7 billion settlement, which was negotiated parallel to the Iran nuclear talks, in cash:
What on earth was the White House thinking? Sending the world’s leading state sponsor of terror pallets of untraceable cash isn’t just terrible policy. It’s incredibly reckless, and it only puts bigger targets on the backs of Americans.
It’s no wonder that while the administration tried to hide the truth about the payment, Iran seized new American hostages. This cash bonanza has emboldened Iran’s radical regime, and undermined America’s national security. It cannot happen again. That;s why I’ve introduced legislation to stop more dangerous cash payouts to Iran.
Last week, Reuters reported that the intelligence wing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “arrested an Iranian-American dual national in late July on charges of plotting against national security and working with hostile governments.” This latest arrest is reportedly among at least half a dozen made of dual-national Iranians, including at least three other Iranian-Americans over the past year.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter and Periscope @AdelleNaz