Confirmed: Obama’s $1.7B Tribute to Iran Was Paid in Cash to Circumvent Sanctions

FILE - In this Aug. 4, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon. President Barack Obama returns from vacation rested and ready for a busy fall, including pressing Congress for Zika funding and fending off congressional attacks over the administration's $400 million "leverage" …
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File

On Tuesday, the Obama administration finally admitted something its critics had long suspected: The entire $1.7 billion tribute paid to Iran was tendered in cash — not just the initial $400 million infamously shipped to the Iranians in a cargo plane — at the same moment four American hostages were released.

“Treasury Department spokeswoman Dawn Selak said in a statement the cash payments were necessary because of the ‘effectiveness of U.S. and international sanctions,’ which isolated Iran from the international finance system,” said ABC News, relating what might be one of history’s strangest humblebrags. The sanctions Obama threw away were working so well that he had to satisfy Iran’s demands with cold, hard cash!

By the way, those sanctions were not entirely related to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. As former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy pointed out at National Review last month, they date back to Iran’s seizure of hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, its support for “Hezbollah’s killing sprees,” and, most pertinently, Bill Clinton’s 1995 invocation of “federal laws that deal with national emergencies caused by foreign aggression,” by which he meant Iran’s support for international terrorism.

ABC also has an amusing way of rendering the administration’s hard-won admission that the initial payment was indeed a ransom for hostages:

The Obama administration had claimed the events were separate, but recently acknowledged the cash was used as leverage until the Americans were allowed to leave Iran. The remaining $1.3 billion represented estimated interest on the Iranian cash the U.S. had held since the 1970s. The administration had previously declined to say if the interest was delivered to Iran in physical cash, as with the principal, or via a more regular banking mechanism.

Also confirmed: Iran’s loot was taken from the Treasury Department’s Judgment Fund, which allowed the administration to circumvent Congress yet again. McCarthy persuasively argues that it was also a blatant violation of federal law because paying the mullahs off with piles of foreign currency doesn’t actually bypass the sanctions that are still in effect.

“On Tuesday, a group of Republican senators announced their support for legislation that would bar payments from the Judgment Fund to Iran until Tehran pays the nearly $55.6 billion that U.S. courts have judged that it owes to American victims of Iranian terrorism,” ABC reports.

Of course, Iran is not even slightly interested in the legal claims of American citizens, and nobody in the Obama administration has evinced much enthusiasm for pressing those claims.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) reminds us where Obama’s pallets of cash are going: “President Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran was sweetened with an illicit ransom payment and billions of dollars for the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism.”

“President Obama’s secret $400 million ransom payment to Iran already set an incredibly dangerous precedent, and news that it was followed by two more plane loads of cash only makes this blunder even worse,” said Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller, as quoted by Fox News. “Hillary Clinton’s support for President Obama’s approach to Iran, including the deeply flawed nuclear deal she helped spearhead, reflects the same bad judgment that characterized her foreign policy decision-making as Secretary of State.”

Fox also reports that the House Financial Services Oversight Subcommittee will hold hearings Thursday to examine the Iran payments.

“The Iranians wanted hard, cold cash going to their military to fund their terrorist network,” said subcommittee chairman Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), noting that Obama’s cash payments rendered the money given to Iran “untraceable.”


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