Obama’s Ransom Payment Explained
The Obama administration has allowed the United States to become the terror sponsoring Iranian regime’s banker. It shamefully paid $400 million in ransom to secure the release of American hostages whom the Iranian regime was illegally detaining. President Obama indignantly denied he had paid Iran a ransom, which would be contrary to long-standing American policy. All he was doing, he said, was to settle an old debt, which had arisen because Iran had never received the arms the Shah had purchased before the Islamic revolution in 1979 ended his rule. Unfortunately for Obama, his attempt to deceive the American people is unraveling as more facts become known.
Now, in light of additional details of the circumstances surrounding the exchange which The Wall Street Journal reported on August 18th, the State Department is finally coming closer to admitting the obvious. The $400 million payment to Iran was contingent on the release of the hostages. State Department spokesman John Kirby still held on to the narrative that the payment and hostage release negotiations were conducted on separate tracks. However, according to the Associated Press, he claimed that the U.S. withheld delivery of the cash as leverage until the U.S. citizens had left Iran.
To get past the double talk, a reporter asked Kirby at the August 18th press briefing, “In basic English, you’re saying you wouldn’t give them $400 million in cash until the prisoners were released, correct?” Kirby responded, “That’s correct.”
The Wall Street Journal had previously reported on August 3rd the secret transport to Iran of $400 million in Euros and other non-U.S. dollar currencies at around the same time that several American hostages held captive were released by the Iranian regime. The cash, stacked in wooden pallets, was sent secretly on an unmarked cargo plane from banks in the Netherlands and Switzerland. So what, said Obama and his acolytes. The coincidence of timing of the payment and the hostage release did not prove any quid pro quo, they said. Their lame attempts to put lipstick on a pig look even lamer with the latest report by The Wall Street Journal indicating how the Obama administration’s own behavior at the time of the exchange of money for hostages demonstrated its intent to engage in a quid pro quo.
“New details of the $400 million U.S. payment to Iran earlier this year depict a tightly scripted exchange specifically timed to the release of several American prisoners held in Iran,” The Wall Street Journal reported on August 18th. According to the report, an Iran Air aircraft was loaded with the cash in Geneva. However, it was not until the plane carrying the American hostages from Iranian captivity to freedom was “wheels up” that custody of the cash was actually turned over to Iranian officials in Geneva.
The very airline whose aircraft was used to transport this ransom money from Geneva to Tehran was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2011 for allegedly allowing Iran Air flights to be used to transport weapons and supplies for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force was designated as a terrorist entity by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2007. It just so happened, The Wall Street Journal reported, that the “Treasury Department lifted sanctions on Iran Air on Jan. 16—the day before the cash and prisoner transfers.”
In other words, the Obama administration has simultaneously given Iran Air a get out of jail free card and used this same airline to transport ransom money that will likely end up in the hands of Iran’s terrorist fighters or terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
An additional $1.3 billion in “interest” on the old arms debt has also been paid to Iran. It is not clear when and under what circumstances this further payment occurred, including whether there were any discussions regarding the new captives Iran has taken hostage.
Thanks to President Obama, Iran is now $1.7 billion richer, on top of the unfrozen assets they have received and the financial relief they have reaped from the lifting of sanctions. There are no known restrictions placed by the Obama administration on how Iran can spend the money. And they are taking more hostages to trade for more ransom money in the future.
While the Obama administration continues to appease Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin is cementing an alliance with Iran that spells more trouble for U.S. strategic interests in the region. Less than a month after Obama’s $400 million ransom payment was delivered to Iran, the adviser to Iran's supreme leader Ali Akbar Velayati said that “Iran wishes to purchase additional volumes [of weapons] from Russia, and the Russian government also has a desire to positively respond to such requests.”
That is on top of Iran’s purchase of Russia’s advanced S-300 air defense system.
Russia is now launching air attacks against Syria from an airbase in Iran. The Obama State Department’s response so far has been to raise questions on whether Russia is violating a UN Security Council resolution that requires the Security Council to approve in advance the supply, sale or transfer of combat aircraft to Iran. Russia claims it is not supplying, selling or transferring to Iran the planes it is using for the airstrikes. Moreover, Russia claims its strikes successfully targeted ISIS facilities and fighters.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for Russia's Ministry of Defense, issued a scathing rebuke to the State Department’s expression of concern:
It's against our rules to provide advice to the leadership of the U.S. State Department. But it's hard to resist a recommendation for some State Dept. representatives to check their logic and knowledge of fundamental documents of international law.
Konashenkov noted that the aircraft were not being used inside Iran, but rather to conduct airstrikes in the “independent sovereign state" of Syria. Syria has consented to such airstrikes.
The Obama administration’s consideration of resorting to a weakly drafted UN Security Council resolution, which Russia and Iran can easily evade, is pathetic. In fact, in this case, Russia has the better part of any legal argument challenging its use of the Iranian airbase, because it has the consent of both Iran and Syria while retaining full control of its aircraft. Of far more concern, however, is how Russia and Iran are working together strategically to marginalize U.S. influence in the region. Barack Obama is reduced to acting as the Iranian regime’s banker with the ransom payment and other financial relief he has enabled. Vladimir Putin, by contrast, will fill Russia’s coffers with money from arms sales to Iran – perhaps paid for in part from the ransom - while increasing Russia’s footprint in the Middle East with Iran’s help.
In short, even apart from the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran that President Obama spearheaded, Obama’s kid gloves treatment of Iran has turned into a major humiliation for the United States. It has enriched the Iranian regime at U.S. taxpayers’ expense, and emboldened Iran’s terror sponsoring rulers and their ally Putin.
(Front Page Mag)
Joseph Klein is a Harvard-trained lawyer and the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom and Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations & Radical Islam