The State Department admitted Thursday that the US would not hand over $400 million in cash to Iran until it released four American hostages — two weeks after President Obama insisted the payment was not a “ransom.”
State Department spokesman John Kirby was asked at Thursday’s press briefing: “In basic English, you’re saying you wouldn’t give them $400 million in cash until the prisoners were released, correct?”
“That’s correct,” Kirby replied.
In an Aug. 4 press conference, President Obama said the opposite.
“We do not pay ransom. We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future,” the president told reporters, speaking of the Jan. 17 payment and hostage release.
Families “know we have a policy that we don’t pay ransom. And the notion that we would somehow start now, in this high-profile way, and announce it to the world, even as we’re looking in the faces of other hostage families whose loved ones are being held hostage, and saying to them ‘We don’t pay ransom,’ defies logic,” Obama added at the time. Read the rest of this entry »
Administration officials have refused to publicly disclose how and when the
cash transfer ransom payment authorized by Mr. Obama took place.
WASHINGTON — Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee report: 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.
“‘Our top priority was getting the Americans home,’ said a U.S. official. Once the Americans were ‘wheels up’ on the morning of Jan. 17, Iranian officials in Geneva were allowed to take custody of the $400 million in currency, according to officials briefed on the exchange.”
The picture emerged from accounts of U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation: U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17. Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash home from a Geneva airport that day.
President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials have said the payment didn’t amount to ransom, because the U.S. owed the money to Iran as part of a longstanding dispute linked to a failed arms deal from the 1970s. U.S. officials have said that the prisoner release and cash transfer took place through two separate diplomatic channels.
“The picture emerged from accounts of U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation: U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17.”
But the handling of the payment and its connection to the Americans’ release have raised questions among lawmakers and administration critics.
“Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash home from a Geneva airport that day.”
The use of an Iranian cargo plane to move pallets filled with $400 million brings clarity to one of the mysteries surrounding the cash delivery to Iran first reported by The Wall Street Journal this month. Administration officials have refused to publicly disclose how and when the cash transfer authorized by Mr. Obama took place. Executives from Iran’s flagship carrier, Iran Air, organized the round-trip flight from Tehran to Geneva where the cash—euros and Swiss francs and other currencies—was loaded onto the aircraft, these people said.
“Our top priority was getting the Americans home,” said a U.S. official. Once the Americans were “wheels up” on the morning of Jan. 17, Iranian officials in Geneva were allowed to take custody of the $400 million in currency, according to officials briefed on the exchange.
“Mr. Obama said on Aug. 4 the payment had to be in cash because the U.S. and Iran have no banking relationship, eliminating the possibility of a check or wire transfer.”
The payment marked the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration announced it had reached with Tehran in January to resolve a decades-old legal dispute traced back to the final days of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. His government paid $400 million into a Pentagon trust fund in 1979 for military parts that were never delivered because of the Islamic revolution that toppled him. Read the rest of this entry »
‘A $400 million payoff in laundered money, delivered in the dead of night in an unmarked cargo plane, isn’t what it looks like!’Posted: August 5, 2016
‘We would not, we have not, we will not pay ransom to secure the release of US citizens.’
It came to mind this week when the White House and State Department insisted that the charge the US paid a ransom to get back American hostages was purely circumstantial. Sometimes, a $400 million payoff in laundered money, delivered in the dead of night in an unmarked cargo plane, isn’t what it looks like.
“Sometimes you just have to marvel at the way smart people can talk themselves into stupidity.”
Jan. 16 was “Implementation Day” for the nuclear deal between the United States and Iran, in which the state sponsor of terror received sanctions relief possibly worth as much as $150 billion — which would be roughly equivalent to 40 percent of its GDP — in exchange for some guarantees against developing nuclear weapons … for a while. (The merits, and even the nature, of the Iran nuclear deal are hotly disputed, but that’s a topic for another time.)
That same day, the Obama administration announced a prisoner swap between the US and Iran, in which we traded seven Iranian criminals and removed another 14 from an Interpol “most wanted” list. In exchange, they returned four innocent Americans, illegally held by the Iranian regime.
Back then, Secretary of State John Kerry boasted about what a masterful diplomatic breakthrough it was. Those Americans were freed thanks to “the relationships forged and the diplomatic channels unlocked over the course of the nuclear talks,” Kerry preened.
Yes, well, maybe. But few things really cement a solid working relationship like $400 million in cash. Kerry failed to mention that part in his press conferences or congressional testimony. In fact, the Obama administration kept the whole thing a secret.
“The whole point of not paying ransoms to terrorists isn’t to save money. The reason we don’t pay kidnappers is that we understand that it will only encourage more kidnapping.”
The White House concedes that it all looks very bad. But it insists this was in no way a ransom payment; the trout got in the milk for perfectly normal reasons. You see, the Iranians were suing for funds deposited with the Pentagon in 1979 for a weapons purchase that was later blocked when the ayatollahs deposed the Shah. Read the rest of this entry »
[PHOTO] Iran-Iraq Border: Iranian Female Students Play Around an Abandoned Tank in Shalamcheh, Khuzestan, IranPosted: January 4, 2016
‘There are relics left along the Iran-Iraq boarders. A group of Iranian female students play around an abandoned tank [in Shalamcheh, Khuzestan, Iran]. Among them, one girl stands on the tank with her arms open.’ (Yanan Li / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest)
See more here
The Islamic State Wants Us to Destroy It
“They are begging for U.S. troops on the ground. That’s what they want.”
— former Obama administration official Van Jones
“The one thing ISIS wants the most: American boots on the ground.”
— CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria
“They are begging for U.S. troops on the ground,” former Obama administration official Van Jones said. “That’s what they want.”
“The one thing ISIS wants the most: American boots on the ground,” CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria said.
Source: Washington Free Beacon
Stephen Dinan reports: President Obama’s marquee deportation amnesty has been stalled by the courts, but the rest of his executive actions on immigration, announced exactly a year ago, are moving forward — including his move protecting more than 80 percent of illegal immigrants from any danger of deportation.
The amnesty, dubbed Deferred Action for Parental Accountability was supposed to grant full tentative legal status — including work permits, Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses — to more than 4 million illegal immigrants. It has been halted by a federal appeals court, and its fate will soon rest with the Supreme Court.
But the rest of the dozen actions Mr. Obama announced on Nov. 20, 2014, are still advancing, including a far-reaching set of priorities that effectively orders agents not to bother deporting nearly all illegal immigrants.
“There are 7 or 8 or 9 million people who are now safe under the current policy. That is a victory to celebrate while we wait for the Supreme Court,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who was among the chief cheerleaders pushing Mr. Obama to go around Congress and take unilateral steps last year.
The actions — often mislabeled by the press as executive orders — also included changes to the legal immigration system, such as making it easier for spouses of guest workers to also find jobs; allowing foreigners who study science and technology at U.S. universities to remain and work in the country longer; pushing legal immigrants to apply for citizenship; and waiving the penalty on illegal immigrant spouses or children of legal permanent residents so they no longer have to go to their home countries to await legal status. Read the rest of this entry »
President Obama reportedly phoned home tonight to brief federal officials on the security protocols for resettling Syrian refugees in the United States and assured them that American citizens are safe; however, he took a moment to express his anger with those opposed to accepting refugees, calling them “scared of widows and 3-year-old orphans.”
Screening outposts to be set up in Iraq, Lebanon as U.S. urges Arab nations to do more.
The Obama administration is moving to increase and accelerate the number of Syrian refugees who might be admitted into the United States by opening new screening outposts in Iraq and Lebanon, administration officials told Reuters on Friday.
The move comes after President Barack Obama pledged in September to admit an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016, torn by four years of civil war and disorder.
The U.S. State Department confirmed the plans to open a refugee settlement processing centre in Erbil, Iraq, before the end of 2015, and to resume refugee processing in Lebanon in early 2016, said spokeswoman Danna Van Brandt.
The White House would not say how many additional refugees it may take in beyond the 10,000, but two senior administration officials said they are seeking ways to increase the number.
“We want to be in a place where we can push out really ambitious goals,” said one of the officials, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
The State Department runs nine screening centres worldwide that serve as meeting points for refugees and U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees who have to decide who is suitable for resettlement in the United States.
The additional centres will double the number available to refugees in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »
Dave Boyer reports: When President Obama signs into law the new two-year budget deal Monday, his action will bring into sharper focus a part of his legacy that he doesn’t like to talk about: He is the $20 trillion man.
“The Boehner-Obama spending agreement would allow for unlimited borrowing by the Treasury until March 2017. This deal piles on billions of dollars to the national debt by increasing spending over the next three years and then not paying for it for a decade — with half of the offsets not occurring until 2025.”
— Paul Winfree, director of economic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation
Mr. Obama’s spending agreement with Congress will suspend the nation’s debt limit and allow the Treasury to borrow another $1.5 trillion or so by the end of his presidency in 2017. Added to the current total national debt of more than $18.15 trillion, the red ink will likely be crowding the $20 trillion mark right around the time Mr. Obama leaves the White House.
“Of this $154 billion, about $78 billion is paid for honestly. The remaining $56 billion of the legislation — mostly the war spending increase and interest costs — is not paid for at all.”
When Mr. Obama took over in January 2009, the total national debt stood at $10.6 trillion. That means the debt will have very nearly doubled during his eight years in office, and there is much more debt ahead with the abandonment of “sequestration” spending caps enacted in 2011.
“When Mr. Obama took over in January 2009, the total national debt stood at $10.6 trillion. That means the debt will have very nearly doubled during his eight years in office, and there is much more debt ahead with the abandonment of “sequestration” spending caps enacted in 2011.”
“Congress and the president have just agreed to undo one of the only successful fiscal restraint mechanisms in a generation,” said Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union. “The progress on reducing spending and the deficit has just become much more problematic.”
“We will be raising the debt ceiling in an unlimited fashion. We will be giving President Obama a free pass to borrow as much money as he can borrow in the last year of his office. No limit, no dollar limit. Here you go, President Obama. Spend what you want.”
— Sen. Rand Paul
Some budget analysts scoff at the claim made by the administration and by House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, that the budget agreement’s $112 billion in spending increases is fully funded by cuts elsewhere. Mr. Boehner left Congress last week.
“The Boehner-Obama spending agreement would allow for unlimited borrowing by the Treasury until March 2017,” said Paul Winfree, director of economic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation. “This deal piles on billions of dollars to the national debt by increasing spending over the next three years and then not paying for it for a decade — with half of the offsets not occurring until 2025.” Read the rest of this entry »
Bridget Johnson reports: ISIS beheaded four Peshmerga in a grisly video released today with a retribution message to President Obama — delivered by an American-sounding executioner — for last week’s raid to rescue 69 prisoners near Hawija, Iraq.
“…There is still no compelling reason to believe that anything we are currently doing will be sufficient to achieve the President’s stated goal of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL.”
— Senator John McCain
Three of the Kurds are forced to watch the fourth prisoner being beheaded before they are subjected to the same fate.
“Obama, you have learned a new lesson. Six of the soldiers of the caliphate faced 400 of your children. They killed and injured them, by Allah’s grace. You were probably surprised by this. O Crusader, it is the support of Allah you did not gain anything, you returned to your base with loss and humiliation.”
The video, viewed by PJM, includes night-vision images of a helicopter attack, though it’s unclear if it’s footage from that night. It also shows clips of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, dead bodies and a field of rubble while ripping off coalition footage of the strikes. U.S. forces said they leveled the compound after the prisoners, who were set to be killed later that day, were rescued.
“Obama, you wage war against Allah. He supports us against you; it is the promise of Allah. Allah will never fail in his promise.”
A narrator speaking in Arabic walks through the decimated compound as he recounts ISIS’ version of events and includes alleged witnesses.
One jihadist wearing gloves and a surgical mask picks through a pile of first-aid packaging, bloody bandaging and needles they said were left by U.S. and Kurdish forces.
Then the 15-minute video cuts to the prisoners in orange jumpsuits kneeled before the rubble, and the black-clad killers wielding knives. Read the rest of this entry »
Chuck Ross reports: Hillary Clinton sent an email to her daughter, Chelsea, on Sept. 11, 2012 in which she asserted that an al-Qaida-like group was responsible for the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, it was revealed on Thursday during the former secretary of state’s testimony to the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The email, which was revealed by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan , indicates that Clinton knew early on that the attacks which left four Americans dead was carried out by terrorists. But as Jordan pointed out, Clinton and others in the Obama administration had already begun crafting the narrative that the attack was spontaneous and that the attackers were motivated by a YouTube video many Muslims found offensive.
In the email cited by Jordan, Clinton responded to daughter Chelsea, who emailed under the pseudonym Diane Reynolds.
“Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like [sic] group,” Clinton wrote.
But shortly before the email, after it was revealed that Ambassador Chris Stevens had been murdered in the onslaught, Clinton implied that the YouTube video had served as a motive.
“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted to the Internet,” Clinton said in a statement shortly after Stevens’ death.
The Obama administration continued for days after the attack to claim that the YouTube video — entitled “Innocence of Muslims” — had sparked protests which turned violent. Critics of the administration’s handling of the response to the attack assert that the YouTube video was used as political cover to protect Obama ahead of his re-election bid. Obama had been on the campaign trail insisting that he had destroyed al-Qaida.
Jordan compared Clinton’s disparate positions, asserting that she “knew the truth” but insisted on casting some blame on the video.
“You tell the American people one thing, you tell your family an entirely different story,” Jordan said. Read the rest of this entry »
Robert Tracinski writes:
….Here’s how the shutdown weapon works. The president and his Democratic allies in Congress dictate their priorities on the budget and spending. If Republicans don’t go along, if they pass a budget that doesn’t spend as much as the president wants, Democrats use the filibuster and the veto to block the budget and shut down government. They then use “shutdown theater”—things like erecting barriers around public monuments that require no federal money to stay open—to make this seem like a bigger crisis than it is, and they depend on the press to put all the blame on Republicans. The House GOP, seeing the public approval of Republicans taking a hit, backs down. That’s how the last two Democratic presidents have used the shutdown to beat a hostile Congress into submission.
So long as Obama and the Democrats can use a government shutdown as a credible threat, they neutralize House Republicans’ power of the purse. And so long as that’s the case, the House GOP can’t do anything substantial. They’re reduced to pleading, “We can’t do anything until we have the Senate,” and then, “We can’t do anything until we have the presidency.” And eventually the Republican base and the Tea Party types get fed up and conclude that Republican leaders never really wanted to do anything in the first place, that they’re just marking time before they can go to K Street or Wall Street and cash out. (Which is partly correct.)
The House GOP needed to find a good opportunity to go to the matt on the government shutdown and force Democrats to compromise. If they had done that, they could have used budget negotiations to get at least some of what the base wanted, instead of caving in all the time…(read more)
…Can you imagine GQ ever writing this about any Democrat, much less Obama?…(read more)
Source: Weasel Zippers
Bonus Smear, via @HollywoodLife
Russia launched its first airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday. They were almost all in western Syria. They did not fall on the Islamic State or the other terrorist groups raping and pillaging the Syrian countryside, creating the largest international refugee crisis in decades.
Rather, the Russian airstrikes fell on the moderate rebel groups that the U.S. has been notionally supporting against the country’s tyrant Bashar al-Assad.
President Obama seems surprised by this, but his surprise is inexcusably disingenuous or obtuse.
McCain: Putin’s Ambitions ‘Blindingly Obvious’
Assad is and has long been an ally of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. Russia entered the Syrian civil war as any rational person would have expected, on the side of his ally and of the Iranian paramilitaries that support him.
Does anyone in the administration dare to say they were shocked — shocked — that Putin is indifferent to both the horror and the strategic threat posed by the Islamic State. Why, yes the Obama administration does dare to claim surprise. When Russian bombs began to fall on their predictable targets, American officials reacted by claiming they were “taken aback,” as if they were genuinely wounded and upset.
On Monday, Obama had addressed the United Nations with the ridiculous idea that Washington and Moscow might would work together in Syria. “The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” Obama said. Read the rest of this entry »
In an Effort to Appear Relevant, Obama Administration Finally Sort of Developing Sanctions Against China Over CybertheftsPosted: August 30, 2015
A decision on whether to act could come soon, close to a major state visit by President Xi Jinping.
The Obama administration is developing a package of unprecedented economic sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals who have benefited from their government’s cybertheft of valuable U.S. trade secrets.
The U.S. government has not yet decided whether to issue these sanctions, but a final call is expected soon — perhaps even within the next two weeks, according to several administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
“The indictments were a strong move. This is going to be an even stronger move. It’s really going to put China in the position of having to choose whether they want to be this pariah nation — this kleptocracy — or whether they want to be one of the leading nations in the world.”
— Rob Knake, a former White House cyber official and currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Issuing sanctions would represent a significant expansion in the administration’s public response to the rising wave of cyber-economic espionage initiated by Chinese hackers, who officials say have stolen everything from nuclear power plant designs to search engine source code to confidential negotiating positions of energy companies.
Any action would also come at a particularly sensitive moment between the world’s two biggest economies. President Xi Jinping of China is due to arrive next month in Washington for his first state visit — complete with a 21-gun salute on the South Lawn of the White House and an elaborate State Dinner. There is already tension over a host of other issues, including maritime skirmishes in the South China Sea and China’s efforts to devalue its currency in the face of its recent stock market plunge. At the same time, the two countries have deep trade ties and the administration has sometimes been wary of seeming too tough on China.
But the possibility of sanctions so close to Xi’s visit indicates how frustrated U.S. officials have become over the persistent cyber plundering.
The sanctions would mark the first use of an order signed by President Obama in April establishing the authority to freeze financial and property assets of, and bar commercial transactions with, individuals and entities overseas who engage in destructive attacks or commercial espionage in cyberspace.
“China is not the only country that hacks computer networks for trade secrets to aid its economy, but it is by far the most active, officials say. Just last month, the FBI said that economic espionage cases surged 53 percent in the past year, and that China accounted for most of that.”
The White House declined to comment on specific sanctions, but a senior administration official, speaking generally, said: “As the president said when signing the executive order enabling the use of economic sanctions against malicious cyber actors, the administration is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to confront such actors. Read the rest of this entry »