TEL AVIV — Questions continue to linger about the Obama administration’s decision to deliver $400 million in pallets of foreign currency flown to Iran aboard an unmarked jetliner the same day five American hostages were released from Iranian custody.
The State and Treasury Departments both told Breitbart News that the U.S. government transferred the remaining $1.3 billion, which was part of the same settlement for which the $400 million was an initial payment in January. However, despite numerous requests, neither State nor Treasury would provide an answer on how the Obama administration allegedly transferred to Iran the remaining $1.3 billion.
It is not clear whether the $1.3 billion was similarly delivered to Iran in the same spy novel-like fashion as the $400 million – in cash pallets of foreign currency. If the money was not transferred in cash, that could raise questions about President Obama’s explanation that cash was necessary because there was no banking relationship.
At issue is not simply the curious timing of the $400 million cash handoff, which took place hours before the hostages were released and was described as a ransom payment in Iranian media reports that cited senior Iranian defense officials. The Obama administration has denied the ransom claims, and has said that when the delivery was made in January, the White House publicly acknowledged the full payment amount.
Another issue is the need to transfer the $400 million in foreign cash pallets delivered to Iranian guards, a detail that was not disclosed by the administration until its revelation last week by the Wall Street Journal.
Regarding the need for cash, Obama has explained that the U.S. does not have a banking relationship with Tehran.
“The only bit of news that is relevant on this is the fact that we paid cash,” Obama told reporters last Friday.
“The reason we had to give them cash is because we are so strict in maintaining sanction answers we don’t have a banking relationships with Iran that we couldn’t send them a check. We could not wire the money,” the president added.
It has been widely reported that the $400 million was part of a dispute that arose after Iran in the late 1970s had purchased U.S. fighter jets while Tehran was still an American ally. After the country turned into an enemy in 1979, the U.S. halted delivery of the military equipment, thus triggering an international case in which Iran was asking The Hague arbitrators for $10 billion.
Following years of negotiations, the Obama administration finally agreed to settle the case for $1.7 billion – the initial $400 million plus another $1.3 billion in interest.
Reuters reported the $1.3 billion was transferred to Iran by the Treasury Department’s Judgment Fund.
The Fund, according to its website:
is a permanent, indefinite appropriation available to pay judicially and administratively ordered monetary awards against the United States. The Judgment Fund is also available to pay amounts owed under compromise agreements negotiated by the U.S. Department of Justice in settlement of claims arising under actual or imminent litigation, if a judgment on the merits would be payable from the Judgment Fund.
A spokesperson for the Judgement Fund confirmed to this reporter that the payment for the compromise that was reached on interest, of approximately $1.3 billion, has indeed been provided out of the Fund.
The Fund spokesperson refused to comment on the mechanics of how a settlement payment was made. The spokesperson did not reply to a follow-up question about whether the remaining $1.3 billion was transferred in cash or by any other means.
When asked about how the remaining $1.3 billion was transferred, a spokesperson for the State Department replied that the agency had “nothing to add beyond what the President and Secretary have already said on the subject.”
The spokesperson confirmed that the remaining $1.3 billion was indeed paid in full to Iran but refused to provide comment to two separate requests about how the money was transferred.
The lack of clarity has led to the raising of questions about whether the remainder was paid.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) has said that due to Obama administration obfuscation, he is unsure if the U.S. still owed any remaining money on the 1.7 billion judgement.
“I don’t know yet whether there’s $1.3 billion left,” he said. “The administration has continued to dissemble and stonewall Congress on these very questions. In January, we were asking these questions.”
Writing at National Review Online, former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy asked, “What’s the story with the other $1.3 billion in this deal, the money Iran is supposed to get in addition to the $400 million in cash?”
Bloomberg in June reported on the $1.7 billion, which the news agency claimed was transferred by the U.S. Treasury “to Iran’s Central Bank in January.”
On Tuesday, Sen. Deb Fischer put out a press release similarly stating that in January 2016, “the U.S. Treasury transferred $1.7 billion from the Judgment Fund to Iran’s Central Bank.”
Meanwhile, while the Obama administration has strongly denied any link between the cash transfer and the release of the hostages on the same day. The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed U.S. officials acknowledging, as the newspaper paraphrased it, “that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible.”
The Journal report sparked an outcry, with Republicans, including Donald Trump, accusing the White House of paying ransom.
Cotton directly accused Obama 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 Americans, he told the Journal.
Rep. Paul Ryan fumed, “If true, this report confirms our longstanding suspicion that the administration paid a ransom in exchange for Americans unjustly detained in Iran.”
“It would also mark another chapter in the ongoing saga of misleading the American people to sell this dangerous nuclear deal,” he added.
Former CIA Agent Phil Houston alleged Obama displayed a “high level” of deception with the Iran cash transfer.
Meanwhile, the general descriptions of the cash transferred were viewed by Fortune as having “the air of skulduggery.”
Time’s Karl Vick conceded: “It does look fishy as all get out.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
With research by Joshua Klein.