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 »
“Of course the Justice Department objected — it was illegal. It isn’t only the optics; it isn’t only that they are just looking ridiculous in denying that it was quid pro quo.”
“Obviously it wasn’t a coincidence; the reason it was objected to by Justice — there is a statute that prohibits us from engaging in Iran dealing with dollars, so they had to print the money here, ship it over to Switzerland, turn it into Swiss francs and euros, and ship it over to Iran. If a private company had done this, it is called money laundering. The CEO would be in jail right now.”