The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Obama administration secretly airlifted $400 million in cash to Iran in January at the same time Tehran was releasing four jailed Americans. The Journal, citing U.S. and European officials and congressional sources, says that Team Obama procured the money from central banks in Switzerland and the Netherlands. Reportedly, it was stacked on wooden pallets and flown to Tehran in an unmarked cargo plane.
Why did the administration procure and send the dough in this fashion? Apparently, it was because the Iranians demanded hard cash, and with banks fearing sanctions for dealing with Iran, Obama needed the Swiss and Dutch governments to route the money to Iran. And, of course, the American people had to be kept in the dark.
The money reportedly represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old failed arms deal before the Iranian revolution in 1979. That settlement coincided with the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.
At the time, Obama said that “with the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well.” He did not, however, reveal the $400 million cash payment to the mullahs.
The Obama administration denies that this payment was a ransom. It characterizes the payment as an installment payment on the resolution of the old dispute discussed above.
It’s more accurate, I think, to characterize it as ransom money (indeed, one could reasonably characterize the entire payment to Iran — $1.7 billion in the end — as a ransom). According to the Journal:
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 [and] 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 [hostages] 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.
This chronology, including the timing of the release, makes Iran’s characterization of the payment far more persuasive than Team Obama. Moreover, the administration has consistently failed to level with the American public about its deals with Iran (among a great many other matters).
However, one characterizes the payment, it has produced the inevitable effect of a ransom payment — the taking of more hostages. The Journal points out:
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. . . .
Friends and family of [one of the hostages] 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. . .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.
The Iranians recognize a cash machine when they see one. Barack Obama is their cash machine.
The Journal also reminds us that at the time of the prisoner release, John Kerry and the White House portrayed it as a diplomatic breakthrough. Kerry cited the importance of “the relationships forged and the diplomatic channels unlocked over the course of the nuclear talks.”
These relationships are important all right. They are the key to the mullahs obtaining the cash they need to get Iran’s economy going, thereby ensuring the continuation of their oppressive theocratic rule, and to prop up the murderous anti-American Assad regime in Syria.