Republicans in Congress returned from recess this week and introduced two bills taking the Obama administration to task for paying Iran $1.7 billion in cash. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Republicans in Congress introduced two bills this week showing their disagreement with the Obama administration's decision to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash around the time Iran released four U.S. detainees.
The United States sent the non-U.S. currency in cash to Iran in three installments, the first being $400 million on Jan. 16, 2015, the day before the four Americans were released.
Another $1.3 billion in interest was transferred in two payments on Jan. 22, 2016 and Feb. 5, 2016, congressional officials briefed by the U.S. Departments of State, Justice and the Treasury said this week. The total $1.7 billion in payments, all made in cash, completed the settlement of claims related to the incomplete sale of military aircraft parts by the United States to Iran, prior to the 1979 revolution in Iran.
Republicans have said the $400 million payment, which was not directly sent to Iran but was converted to non-U.S. currency by the Swiss and Dutch central banks, amounted to ransom money for the four prisoners. The Obama administration has repeatedly denied the accusation. The State Department said it considered the $400 million payment to be "leverage" aimed at the prisoners' release, but not an outright ransom payment.
With Congress returning to Washington after a summer break, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., introduced legislation designed to stop similar cash payments to foreign countries, censure the Obama administration and require Congress to be given a warning about such payments in the future.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., also introduced a bill to bar future payments to Iran and to reclaim the $1.7 billion payment. Their legislation would also require Iran to settle claims from U.S. families of victims of Iranian terrorism.
"What's worse than a $400 million cash ransom to Iran? A $1.7 billion cash ransom to Iran. This cash bonanza has emboldened Iran's radical regime, and undermined America's national security," Royce said in a statement Tuesday.
"The Obama administration forked over a massive cash ransom to Iran, emboldening the world's leading state sponsor of terror and putting more lives at risk. All of this was done in secret, hidden from the American people and from Congress. This bill will ensure it doesn't happen again," Royce said of his proposed legislation.
Democrats argue that the use of cash justified necessary because of Iran's non-existent position in the banking world.
"Banks won't deal with Iran," said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. "The fact that it's [the transactions] in cash is somewhat not typical, and it does not look good, but my understanding is that Iran has not been able to establish banking, international banking and that's part of our strategy. We don't want to facilitate that."