In the adjacent post Paul Mirengoff extracts the key points from the page-one Wall Street Journal story by Jay Solomon and Carol Lee reporting the Obama administration’s covert cash payment of $400 million to our enemies in Iran as they released four Americans they had detained. Omri Ceren has also emailed a useful summary of key points. Despite the repetition, I thought readers might find it of interest. Omri writes:
(1) It was indeed a ransom payment – negotiators originally established a formula of people for people: American nationals held by Iran for Iranian nationals held by America. But then the Iranians started demanding billions of dollars as well. Iranian officials later bragged they coerced the ransom out of U.S. diplomates —
The U.S. and Iran entered into secret negotiations to secure the release of Americans imprisoned in Iran in November 2014… The discussions… initially focused solely on a formula whereby Iran would swap the Americans detained in Tehran for Iranian nationals held in U.S. jails… But around Christmas, the discussions dovetailed with… the old arms deal. The Iranians were demanding the return of $400 million… They also wanted billions of dollars as interest accrued since then… a report by an Iranian news site close to the Revolutionary Guard, the Tasnim agency, said the cash arrived in Tehran’s Mehrabad airport on the same day the Americans departed. Revolutionary Guard commanders boasted at the time that the Americans had succumbed to Iranian pressure. “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies,” said Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi, commander of the Guard’s Basij militia, on state media.
(2) The administration hid the details from Congress – Lawmakers have been pressing the administration for six months to provide more details about how and where the money went, among other things because Iran has been transferring money for military purposes. They’ve made little progress —
The Obama administration has refused to disclose how it paid any of the $1.7 billion, despite congressional queries, outside of saying that it wasn’t paid in dollars. Lawmakers have expressed concern that the cash would be used by Iran to fund regional allies, including the Assad regime in Syria and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization. The U.S. and United Nations believe Tehran is subsidizing the Assad regime’s war in Syria through cash and energy shipments. Iran has acknowledged providing both financial and military aid to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and deploying Iranian soldiers there.
(3) The administration used cash to dodge the effects of sanctions against Iran – banks don’t want to touch Iran’s financial system because of years of sanctions for terrorism, money laundering, etc. The State Department and Treasury Department enlisted the Swiss and Dutch governments to route hard cash to Iran to circumvent those problems —
The U.S. procured the money from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland, they said… “Sometimes the Iranians want cash because it’s so hard for them to access things in the international financial system,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the January cash delivery. “They know it can take months just to figure out how to wire money from one place to another.”… Mr. Kerry and the State and Treasury departments sought the cooperation of the Swiss and Dutch governments… the Obama administration transferred the equivalent of $400 million to their central banks. It was then converted into other currencies, stacked onto the wooden pallets and sent to Iran on board a cargo plane.
(4) Iran has taken more hostages since the deal and now is looking for another ransom – Tehran went back to arresting American hostages after releasing the last round, and are now seeking another billion dollar deal in the last six months of the administration —
Since the cash shipment…the Revolutionary Guard has arrested two more Iranian-Americans. Tehran has also detained dual-nationals from France, Canada and the U.K. in recent months. At the time of the prisoner release, Secretary of State John Kerry and the White House portrayed it as a diplomatic breakthrough. Mr. Kerry cited the importance of “the relationships forged and the diplomatic channels unlocked over the course of the nuclear talks.”… Friends and family of the Namazis believe the Iranians are seeking to increase their leverage to force another prisoner exchange or cash payment in the final six months of the Obama administration. Mr. Kerry and other U.S. officials have been raising their case with Iranian diplomats… Iranian officials have demanded in recent weeks the U.S. return $2 billion in Iranian funds that were frozen in New York in 2009. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the money should be given to victims of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks.