Omri Ceren writes to update us on today’s Wall Street Journal story by Jay Solomon and Carol Lee (accessible here via Google) that the $1.7 billion paid to the Islamic Republic of Iran was all cash. Omri writes with his usual footnotes:
In January the White House revealed it was transferring Iran $1.7 billion while Iran released some US hostages. Officials denied those were linked, but then the WSJ revealed the $400 million was sent as cash stacked on “wooden pallets… on an unmarked cargo plane” and the transfer was a “tightly scripted exchange specifically timed” to the hostage release [a][b]. That forced the administration to admit the $400 million had in fact been used as “leverage” to get the hostages, but officials refused to clarify how the remaining $1.3 billion was transferred.
Overnight the Wall Street Journal published an article revealing the remaining $1.3 billion was transferred the same way: as cash shipped from Europe on Iranian planes to Iran, via two more installments made over the next 19 days. “The payment ‘flowed in the same manner’ as the original $400 million.”
The news will deepen concerns the Obama administration transferred $1.7 billion in cash bundles to the Iranian military, and particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC):
(1) Today’s WSJ article confirms the new shipments “flowed in the same manner” to Iran as the first $400 million, and it was already known the $400 million was loaded into an IRGC-linked plane — the first flight had been arranged by executives of Iran Air, which the Obama administration had sanctioned because “IRGC officers occasionally take control over Iran Air flights carrying special IRGC-related cargo.”
(2) Even if the IRGC did not have physical control over the cash when it touched down, the money was then allocated to the Iranian military at the behest of Supreme Leader Khamenei — over the summer Iran’s Guardian Council moved the $1.7 billion into the military’s budget [e]. The Obama administration downplayed the significance of that move, but two weeks ago it was locked into Iran’s budget after Khamenei “approved the allocation,” according to translations and analysis from FDD [f].
Here’s today’s WSJ on that part of the debate:
The Obama administration previously had refused to disclose the mechanics of the $1.7 billion settlement, despite repeated calls from U.S. lawmakers. The State Department announced the settlement on Jan. 17 but didn’t brief Congress that the entire amount had been paid in cash. U.S. lawmakers have voiced concern that Iran’s military units, particularly the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, would use the cash to finance military allies in the Middle East, including the Assad regime in Syria, Houthi militias in Yemen, and the Lebanese militia, Hezbollah.