Obama's $400M cash settlement delivery to Iran slammed as 'ransom payment'

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Aug. 3, 2016 at 9:02 AM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Several Republicans have criticized President Barack Obama's administration after the discovery of a secret $400 million payment to Iran around the time of the release of four U.S. prisoners.

The Obama administration's secret $400 million airlift on an unmarked cargo plane to Iran coincided with the January release of four Americans who were detained in Tehran, The Wall Street Journal reported. The money, made up of mainly euros, represented the first payment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran in The Hague to resolve a decades-old failed arms deal dispute.

The transaction has been criticized as a ransom payment by some Republicans including Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk.

"We were right in January 2016 to describe the administration's $1.7 billion transfer to Iran as a ransom payment," Kirk said in a statement. "Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk. While Americans were relieved by Iran's overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House's policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and Reza Shahini."

Cotton said the payment was a " $1.7 billion ransom to the ayatollahs for U.S. hostages."

"This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures" of Americans, Cotton said.

Donald Trump took the opportunity to criticize Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, who was Obama's state secretary from 2008 until 2012.

"Our incompetent Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was the one who started talks to give 400 million dollars, in cash, to Iran. Scandal!" Trump said on Twitter.

State Department spokesman John Kirby denied allegations the payment was a ransom paid to Iran for the release of prisoners.

"As we've made clear, the negotiations over the settlement of an outstanding claim ... were completely separate from the discussions about returning our American citizens home," Kirby said Tuesday. "Not only were the two negotiations separate, they were conducted by different teams on each side, including, in the case of The Hague claims, by technical experts involved in these negotiations for many years."

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