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Obama’s Cash Deal Encourages Iran to Take More Hostages

The trickle of disturbing leaks about the Obama administration’s flawed and risky Iran policy continues to grow. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that “New details of the $400 million U.S. payment to Iran earlier this year depict a tightly scripted exchange specifically timed to the release of several American prisoners held in Iran.”

Although President Barack Obama’s White House persistently has denied that the cash transfer amounted to a ransom payment, a State Department spokesman admitted Thursday that the U.S. government delayed making the payment “to retain maximum leverage” over Iran.

This concession confirms widespread suspicions that the negotiations over the release of four Americans were at least tacitly, if not directly, linked to negotiations over the return of frozen Iranian money that had been paid to the United States before Iran’s 1979 revolution for military weapons.

When the administration announced in January that the hostages had been released, it also announced that it had agreed to pay Tehran $1.7 billion to settle a longstanding claim at the U.S.-Iran claims tribunal, which was set up under the 1981 Algiers Accords that resolved the first Iran hostage crisis. But the White House insisted that the payment was made as part of the agreement that resolved the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis, not the latest hostage deal.

The January hostage deal involved the release of four innocent Americans held on trumped-up charges in exchange for seven Iranians justifiably imprisoned or charged with sanctions violations and the dropping of criminal charges against another 14 Iranians arrested outside the United States for various offenses.

Such criminals-for-hostages swaps reward hostage taking and the deal was criticized for that reason when the hostages were released on Jan. 17, the day after the “Implementation Day” of the Iran nuclear agreement.

But subsequent revelations have put the prisoner exchange in an even worse light.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Aug. 3 that $400 million worth of cash was transferred to Iran on the same day the hostages were released, at the request of the Iranian officials involved in the hostage negotiations who “said they wanted the cash to show that they had gained something tangible.”

Senior Justice Department officials had objected to sending the cash at the same time as the hostage release, but their objections were overruled by the State Department.

Clearly, Iranian officials consider the cash payment to be a hostage ransom. The commander of the Basij, a volunteer force affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, gloated in January that the United States had bought the freedom of the American prisoners with the payment.

The Tehran regime has arrested at least six more foreign visitors since the payment was made in January, including Reza Shahini, a dual Iranian-American citizen, and Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese national with U.S. permanent residency.

Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman based in Dubai, was arrested in October while visiting a friend in Tehran.

Even more disturbing is the case of Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007. Levinson went missing after interviewing David Belfield, an American convert to Islam who fled to Iran after he assassinated an exiled Iranian opposition leader, Ali Akbar Tabatabai, in 1980 in Bethesda, Maryland.

Clearly, Tehran has concluded that crime does pay.

The Obama administration’s hostage deal is a dangerous precedent that puts more Americans at risk of being targeted by Iran and its terrorist surrogates to extract ransom payments in the future.

This is part of the hazardous legacy that Obama will leave for the next president. (For more from the author of “Obama’s Cash Deal Encourages Iran to Take More Hostages” please click HERE)

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Confirmed: Obama Lied About Paying Ransom to Iran for Hostages!

Breaking news from the Associated Press indicates that the State Department has confirmed the $400 million cash payment to Iran was in-fact contingent on the release of American hostages.

The Obama administration had previously claimed that a $400 million cash payment made to Iran in January was unrelated to the release of American hostages in Iran.

President Obama held a press conference earlier this month in which he explicitly denied paying ransom for hostages.

But this new report raises the question, why did Obama lie? (For more from the author of “Confirmed: Obama Lied About Paying Ransom to Iran for Hostages!” please click HERE)

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Wasserman Schultz Can’t Guarantee Iran Nuclear Deal Money Won’t Go to Attacking Israel

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) couldn’t guarantee money Iran got through President Obama’s landmark nuclear deal wouldn’t go to financing terror attacks against Israel during her debate Sunday against primary challenger Tim Canova . . .

Debate moderator Jim DeFede brought up the $1.7 billion Iran got in January as part of a failed arms deal settlement, which included a $400 million cash payment on an unmarked cargo plane that critics charged was effectively a ransom and tied to the nuclear agreement. Iran freed four hostages on the same day it got the cash.

DeFede misspoke about the amounts of money allocated to Iran through the nuclear deal, which is more than $100 billion in sanctions relief, but the crux of his question was whether Wasserman Schultz could guarantee that none of it would be used by Iran to finance terrorist attacks against the Jewish state.

“Can you guarantee that that money, that $1.8 billion that’s part of the Iran deal, won’t be used to finance terror against Israel?” DeFede asked. “Can you guarantee it?”

“You can never guarantee anything, Jim,” she said. (Read more from “Wasserman Schultz Can’t Guarantee Iran Nuclear Deal Money Won’t Go to Attacking Israel” HERE)

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Iranian President Asks His Friend Mr. Obama to ‘Fix’ a $2 Billion Court Ruling

…Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter to President Obama demanding the release of $2 billion in Iranian funds that were seized from bank accounts in New York earlier this year.

The money was taken to compensate family members of victims of the 1983 bombing of a Marine Corps barracks in Beirut and other attacks blamed on Iran under a Supreme Court ruling in April. In all, 1,300 American victims have a legal claim to the money.

Ahmadinejad — known for his anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism — is said to be considering a political comeback and may be using Obama as a pawn to improve his standing.

“It is the clear expectation of the Iranian nation that the particular case of property seizure … be quickly fixed by your excellency and that not only the Iranian nation’s rights be restored and the seized property released and returned, but also the damage caused be fully compensated for,” says the letter from Ahmadinejad, which was made public Monday . . .

The letter comes as Obama is already taking heat for sending Iran $400 million in cash last January just as it released four American detainees. (Read more from “Iranian President Asks His Friend Mr. Obama to ‘Fix’ a $2 Billion Court Ruling” HERE)

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GOP Lawmaker Suggests Obama Administration Employees Should Face Jail Time for Iran Cash Deal

A leading Republican critic of the Obama administration’s policy toward Iran is alleging that the U.S. government violated federal law when it delivered $400 million in cash to Tehran on the same day the country freed four American prisoners.

“I want to know what Obama administration employees were involved with this and how long do they serve in prison,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “There is no doubt they violated federal law when they transferred U.S. taxpayer funds to a state sponsor of terrorism.”

Pompeo’s assertion to The Daily Signal goes farther than most Republicans have gone in their criticism of how the administration handled the cash payment, which the government says was not related to the prisoner release, but the result of a settlement with Iran of a decades-old financial dispute over an uncompleted arms deal.

Because the money already belonged to Iran, and did not have to be appropriated by Congress, most lawmakers and observers say the administration acted lawfully. Critics are more concerned that if Iran considers the $400 million to be a ransom payment, Tehran will be encouraged to seek similar terms for other dual national hostages it unlawfully holds.

“While I think the $400 million cash payment was handled in an incredibly stupid way, I don’t agree with Rep. Pompeo that the administration violated the law,” Patrick Clawson, the director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in an interview with The Daily Signal. “The money is coming from a settlement account, which is frequently used for nonappropriated purposes. They’ve been in meetings trying to settle this claim for 20 years.”

Other observers say the administration should have informed Congress about the details of the $400 million cash payment before it happened.

“It may not be a legal issue, but it’s a best practices issue,” John Hannah, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said in a interview with The Daily Signal.

“These were sanctions established by Congress and for the president then to seek to circumvent them, even if it’s technically legal, without notification or consultation with Congress, is just bad practice and something the Congress ought to be upset about,” added Hannah, who was the national security adviser for Vice President Dick Cheney in the George W. Bush administration.

Pompeo, however, is asking for more. He told The Daily Signal he plans to send letters to the Treasury and Justice departments in the coming days seeking more information on who in the administration authorized the $400 million payment to Iran, and the government’s justification that the transaction was lawful.

“Until the president made an affirmative decision to pay that claim, it wasn’t Iran’s money,” Pompeo said in an interview. “It was American money. So they broke the law. The thrust of it is, ‘It’s illegal. You did it.’ And Congress has a role of identifying a breach of law and referring violators to the Justice Department for prosecution.”

After The Wall Street Journal last week broke the story reporting the details of the cash payment, Republican lawmakers were quick to call it a ransom, while some members of relevant congressional committees expressed frustration about not being fully informed by the Obama administration about what happened.

In January, Obama announced publicly that the U.S. and Iran had struck a deal for the U.S. to pay Tehran $1.7 billion to settle an arms deal from before the Iranian revolution of 1979. On the same day, Obama said the Iranian nuclear deal had been implemented, and that American hostages had been released.

The new Wall Street Journal story shed further light on what happened, reporting that the first installment of the $1.7 billion—the $400 million cash—had been shipped to Iran in the form of euros and Swiss francs on an unmarked cargo plan.

“We’ve been chasing this since January, when President [Barack] Obama announced he was giving Iran almost $2 billion,” Pompeo said. “In both classified and unclassified briefings, at no time was I told the timing of the money transfer, or the format in which it was transferred.”

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., told a local television station last week that he too did not know specific details of the $400 million cash payment.

“It alarms me as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee that something of this magnitude was not briefed to me,” Burr told WGHP Fox Greensboro. “Not only prior to the exchange but since the exchange. Only through, in this case, the Wall Street Journal do the American people know the truth about what was committed to by the American government to the Iranian government.”

Sen. James Lankford. R-Okla., a member of the Intelligence Committee, did not learn about the cash payment until the administration announced it in January, his spokesman told The Daily Signal.

In June, Lankford offered legislation that requires the White House to make public the details of its money transfer to Iran. He hopes the bill gets a vote before the full Senate later this year.

“Many Americans, including myself, have been very suspicious of the transfer of $1.7 billion dollars to Iran, just hours after American prisoners are released and the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal,” Lankford told The Daily Signal in a statement. “I have worked to bring more transparency to all of the Obama administration’s reckless actions with Iran, especially any type of cash payment which helps fund the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to wreak havoc and work directly against American interests in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Yemen.”

When Obama announced the settlement, he described it as savings for taxpayers, arguing that the U.S. ultimately was going to have to give Iran the money it was owed. He argued the government would likely have had to pay even more if the claim went through the normal arbitration process at an international claims tribunal court in Hague.

When the hostage crisis of 1979 was resolved two years later, the governments of Iran and the U.S. established the arbitration court in Hague to settle financial disputes between the two countries. Some of the outstanding issues were resolved, but the legal status of the failed arms deal was not.

“Iran will be returned its own funds, including appropriate interest, but much less than the amount Iran sought,” Obama said in January.

Speaking to reporters last week, Obama said the administration delivered the $400 million in foreign cash because U.S. sanctions law prevented the government from using dollars in transactions with Iran. (For more from the author of “GOP Lawmaker Suggests Obama Administration Employees Should Face Jail Time for Iran Cash Deal” please click HERE)

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Iran HANGS Spy Who Gave the US Valuable Nuclear Information

Iran has executed a nuclear scientist who allegedly accepted millions in bribes spying for the U.S., the country’s state-controlled media announced Sunday.

The strange saga of Shahram Amiri began in 2009, during Democratic presidential nominee Hillary’s Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. Amiri was making a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia when he abruptly vanished without a trace. A few months later, Iran accused the U.S. of kidnapping Amiri with Saudi cooperation, but the U.S steadfastly denied this.

In early 2010, though, news reports started coming out claiming Amiri was a long-time U.S. spy inside Iran, and that his disappearance was a carefully planned CIA operation to allow him to defect to the U.S.

But things only got weirder from there. In June, 2010, Amiri resurfaced in two homemade videos where he claimed he had been kidnapped by the U.S. He said U.S. officials had tortured him and offered mammoth bribes to get nuclear secrets from him, but he claimed to have resisted all these efforts. Amiri also expressed a wish to return to Iran, which he did one month’s later to a hero’s welcome.

At the time of his return, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amiri had returned home after Iranian officials threatened to kill his son. Meanwhile, Iran’s official Fars news service claimed Amiri was actually a double agent, who had obtained secret information from U.S. intelligence during his stay in the U.S. (Read more from “Iran HANGS Spy Who Gave the US Valuable Nuclear Information” HERE)

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Freed American Pastor’s Story Adds More Questions to Dispute over Iran Cash Payment

The fallout from the revelation that the Obama administration paid $400 million in cash to Iran continued on Thursday when one of the four American hostages freed on the same day described how his trip home was delayed under murky circumstances.

Pastor Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American Christian pastor who was imprisoned in Iran, told Fox Business Network in an interview that he was taken out of his prison cell and brought to an airport in Tehran. There, a plane was waiting for him and other freed American prisoners, Abedini said. But before they could be flown home, Abedini said he and the other prisoners had to wait several hours for another plane to land first.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that a $400 million cash payment to settle a longstanding legal claim was delivered to Iran on palettes aboard an unmarked plane on the same day in January when Abedini and the other hostages were freed. The nuclear deal with Iran was also implemented that day.

Critics quickly charged that the transfer of cash to Iran—money it was already owed—amounted to a “ransom” payment.

When Fox Business Network’s Trish Regan suggested to Abedini that the plane he said he was waiting for could be the plane that delivered the $400 million to Iran, the pastor said he wasn’t told the details of the hold-up.

“They didn’t talk about money,” Abedini said. “They just told me about the plane. The reason they said you are here in the airport is because we are waiting for another plane. After that, they never told anything to me and I didn’t see anything.”

Abedini said he and the other freed hostages ended up spending the night at the airport waiting for the second plane.

Under those circumstances, Regan asked Abedini if he thought the U.S. government paid a ransom for his freedom.

“I don’t believe they will use this money for just building an orphanage, but I prefer that the politicians answer this question,” Abedini said.

At a press conference Wednesday, a deputy spokesman for the State Department would not clarify the timeline for reporters.

“As to the timing, I simply don’t—I can’t answer conclusively that these hostage—or these detainees, Americans, were on a plane before that money arrived,” said the spokesperson, Mark C. Toner.

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, has tried to settle criticism of the cash payment.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday, Obama said that the administration publicly announced on the day of the hostage release, and implementation of the nuclear deal, that it had also settled a $1.7 billion financial dispute with Iran over a failed arms deal dating back to the Iranian revolution.

The administration did not mention at the time that the first installment of that payment—the $400 million in cash—was paid in stacks of foreign currency that were flown to Iran on the same day the prisoners were released.

“This wasn’t some nefarious deal,” Obama said. “It wasn’t a secret. We were completely open about it. The only bit of news is that we paid cash.”

“The reason is because we couldn’t send them a check and we couldn’t wire the money. We don’t have a banking relationship with Iran which is part of the pressure we applied on them,” Obama added, referencing American sanctions that prevent dollars from being used in a transaction with Iran.

Obama’s defense hasn’t stopped critics from demanding more answers.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Friday asking about the Justice Department’s involvement in the cash payment.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that senior Justice Department officials had objected to the cash payment, worried it would be seen as a ransom.

They were overruled by the State Department, the newspaper said.

“There are serious questions about this administration’s policies regarding paying ransoms to terrorists and state-sponsors of terrorism,” Grassley wrote in the letter. (For more from the author of “Freed American Pastor’s Story Adds More Questions to Dispute over Iran Cash Payment” please click HERE)

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DOJ Protested Payment to Iran; Prisoners Told They Couldn’t Leave ‘Until Other Plane Arrives’

Count the Department of Justice among those who thought it was a boneheaded idea to drop $400 million cash in the Iranian ayatollah’s hands the same day four American prisoners were released.

According to The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story of the secret cargo plane of cash Tuesday, the timing and manner of the flight raised alarms with senior Justice Department officials. As one told the WSJ, “People knew what it was going to look like, and there was concern the Iranians probably did consider it a ransom payment.”

The State Department rejected DOJ’s concern and carried out the payment. On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry flatly denied any connection between the pallet of cash and the prisoner swap and implementation of the nuclear deal. “The United States does not pay ransom and does not negotiate ransoms,” Kerry told reporters while in Buenos Aires. “It is not our policy.”

President Obama himself scoffed at the notion he’d paid a ransom to Iran, telling reporters Thursday, “This wasn’t some nefarious deal.” But an interview of one of the prisoners conducted after his release challenges that assertion.

Timing Is Everything

A quick timeline may help explain DOJ’s alarm and the growing suspicion.

Way back in 1979, when Jimmy Carter was still in the White House, the Shah of Iran dropped $400 million into a Pentagon account to purchase U.S. fighter jets. Soon after, the Shah was overthrown by the Iranian Revolution and Carter canceled the deal, understanding that arming America-hating Islamists is never a good idea. The $400 million was frozen after those Islamists stormed our embassy, taking 56 Americans hostage.

In the decades since, Iran has wanted its money back with billions in interest, with the two sides endlessly haggling over the matter at an international court at The Hague.

Meanwhile, in recent years, Iran has been arresting Iranian-Americans, holding four in captivity like aces in a poker game as the Obama urged the terrorist nation to accept a deal over its nuclear program.

But what about the four hostages? John Kerry declared they are not part of the nuclear negotiations.

Obama got his Iran nuke deal last summer, with the agreement scheduled to formally go into effect January 2016.

The hostages remained rotting in prison. The public pressure mounted.

Suddenly, after 36 years — and entirely coincidentally, claims the White House — Obama decides it’s time to settle the matter of the $400 million. He’s going to give Iran back its $400 million, plus $1.3 billion in taxpayer money. And — entirely coincidentally — the hostages were being freed. Said Obama on January 17, “With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well.”

The time was right, indeed, if you were one of those four hostages. Obama forgot to mention that the initial payment to Iran had already happened nearly simultaneously with the release of the prisoners. The White House Wednesday refused to clarify whether the money had to be delivered before the four were freed.

However, also on Thursday, Fox News played a clip of an interview they conducted with one of the prisoners, Saeed Abedini, the day he was freed. Abedini said that they kept being delayed “hours and hours” at the airport even though their plane was there and the pilots were ready. When he asked about the delay, he was told repeatedly they could not leave “until the other plane arrives” and “if that other plane doesn’t come we’ll never let you go.”

The Delivery

It’s not just the timing that made the deal suspicious. It was the delivery. The money wasn’t wired. There was no delay until a proper arrangement of U.S. funds could be made. There was no ceremony with a big check acknowledging this diplomatic breakthrough-cum-lottery-win for Iran. The administration got hold of $400 million in francs and rubles, packed it on a pallet, loaded it onto an unmarked cargo plane and landed it into the waiting arms of the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism. And our hostages were free.

No wonder the Justice Department thought the arrangement smelled an awful lot like a ransom payment. Still, the State Department rejected DOJ’s concerns and went ahead with its fly-by-night operation.

The Justice Department isn’t exactly denying the Wall Street Journal account, telling the newspaper the agency “fully supported the ultimate outcome of the administration’s resolutions of several issues with Iran.” “Ultimate outcome” is legal-speak for “At least they got the prisoners back in one piece.” A State Department spokesman declined to comment on the latest WSJ story.

Let’s add one more curious event to the timeline. Remember how Iran grabbed two boats full of U.S. sailors, made them kneel at gunpoint, made them appear in videos, made some of them cry, made a mockery of international law and standards? Remember John Kerry gushing over the Iranians like girls at a Justin Bieber concert? That happened just days before this magical congruence of cash flying one way, hostages flying the other and the Iran nuclear deal officially going into effect.

With Obama desperately needing the Iran deal to be implemented without a hitch, with the hostages still in limbo, with a settlement over the $400 million not yet announced, did the Iranians want to wring a few more concessions or a few more dollars out of its enemy? Or was it yet another coincidence?

John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and “Old News”

Secretary of State Kerry attempted to dismiss the significance of the WSJ bombshell, telling reporters, “This story is not a new story. This was announced by the president of the United States himself at the same time.”

His predecessor, current candidate for president Hillary Clinton, said almost exactly the same thing, like it was from a script: “Well,” she says in the clip below, “the White House talked about this and this is kind of old news. It was first reported about seven or eight months ago.”

“Old news” is a familiar phrase to those who have followed Clinton scandals. As Politistick.com notes when a scandal emerges the Clinton strategy is to deny, deflect, delay and then declare any further revelations as “old news.” Still, in this case, Hillary was not at the helm when the deal was completed, and indeed her answer above is carefully couched in phrases like, “as I understand.”

Meanwhile, Clinton’s opponent Donald Trump is being roasted for suggesting he watched Iranian government video of the Iranians unloading the $400 million. It was actually file footage from Fox News of the January prisoner release. Curious how quickly the media moves away from Obama’s actions to Trump’s mouth.

The “But the Sale Was Going to End” Defense

There’s an old joke. A woman comes home from the department store with a new dress. “Honey, I made us $50!” “Great, dear. How?” “This dress was $100, but I got it half off!” Secretary Kerry is waiving that dress in defending the payment to Iran. He claims agreeing to pay $1.7 billion to Iran to settle the matter of the $400 million was a win for America. “We believe this agreement … actually saved the American taxpayers potentially billions of dollars,” Kerry said. “There was no benefit to the United States of America to drag this out.” After 36 years, how does dragging it out a few weeks make a difference?

The notion that we had to pay Iran this money right now because the only alternative was paying billions more later struck a familiar chord. As President Obama and Kerry were pushing the Iranian nuclear deal, they repeatedly stated that the only alternative to signing the deal they negotiated was war.

This was one of the false narratives — what others would call “lies” — White House adviser Ben Rhodes admitted he created in order to sell the Iranian nuclear deal.

In the wake of Rhodes’ boast and the events surrounding the $400 million payment, it’s no stretch to suggest that while America citizens were ransomed, our credibility was destroyed. (For more from the author of “DOJ Protested Payment to Iran; Prisoners Told They Couldn’t Leave ‘Until Other Plane Arrives” please click HERE)

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White House Calls Secret $400 Million Payment as Iran Hostages Were Released Coincidence

The State Department joined the White House Wednesday in insisting it’s a mere coincidence that the U.S. transferred $400 million to Iran at the same time Iran released four Americans held captive.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story Tuesday night. “The Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran, according to U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation afterward.”

The Administration insists the money was simply the first payment on $1.7 billion to be returned to Iran as part as settlement of a decades-old dispute involving a failed pre-Revolution weapons deal. Back in 1979, the Shah had deposited $400 million into a Pentagon trust account to purchase U.S. fighter jets. The deal was cancelled after the Shah fell and the Islamist regime of Ayatollah Khomeini took over. Iran wanted not only the money back, but billions in interest. Over the years, the two nations continued to battle over the funds before an international tribunal in The Hague. Then came this year’s curiously timed settlement.

Negotiations over the dispute, the administration says, had no connection to the negotiations over the hostages. And as the White House has said repeatedly, the hostage negotiations had absolutely no link to the nuclear deal with Iran.

Yet the administration gave Iran $400 million the day four hostages were released. And, as the WSJ reports, they gave it to Iran in foreign currency cash (to avoid U.S. law), packed in wooden crates and loaded aboard an unmarked cargo plane. For kickers, the landmark nuclear deal was also formally implemented that weekend as well.

On January 17, President Obama said of the long-lingering haggle over the Pentagon deposit, “With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well.” He failed to mention the $400 million cash payout.

With the release of the WSJ bombshell, the administration is calling the timing coincidental. Said State Department spokesman John Kirby, “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 also told Fox News the payment, unannounced and flown in on an unmarked plane, was “no secret.” When pressed for details about the flight by reporters at Wednesday’s White House briefing, press secretary Josh Earnest got testy, wondering “Why is that relevant?”

The Americans released as the money was shipped are Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and a fourth figure about whom much less is known, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari.

“This was not ransom,” Kirby declared.

However, as the WSJ reports, “U.S. officials also acknowledge that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible” and “Iranian press reports have quoted senior Iranian defense officials describing the cash as a ransom payment.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan isn’t buying the White House line, releasing a statement Wednesday morning:

If true, this report confirms our longstanding suspicion that the administration paid a ransom in exchange for Americans unjustly detained in Iran. It would mark another chapter in the ongoing saga of misleading the American people to sell this dangerous nuclear deal. Yet again, the public deserves an explanation of the lengths this administration went to in order to accommodate the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) was more blunt, directly accusing Obama of paying “a $1.7 billion ransom to the ayatollahs for U.S. hostages,” telling WSJ, “This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures.” Indeed, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has arrested two more Iranian-Americans, along with dual-nationals from France, Canada and the United Kingdom in recent months.

News of the payout is already impacting the 2016 Presidential race.

Declaring the $400-million payment a “scandal,” GOP nominee Donald Trump blasted “incompetent” Hillary Clinton for initiating the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Hillary Clinton has not yet reacted to news of the $400-million payout to Iran or Trump’s response. (For more from the author of “White House Calls Secret $400 Million Payment as Iran Hostages Were Released Coincidence” please click HERE)

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Republicans Consider Next Steps After News of Obama Administration Cash Transfer to Iran

Republicans in Congress are criticizing President Barack Obama’s administration for its approval of a $400 million delivery of cash to Iran on the same day the country released four American prisoners and formally implemented the nuclear deal.

Though the administration says the timing of the $400 million money transfer was coincidental, and part of a resolution of a failed arms deal between the two countries that dates to the Iranian revolution, critics say that a link between the payment and the prisoner exchange is undeniable.

“The claim that the timing is coincidental is beyond unbelievable,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., an outspoken critic of U.S. policy toward Iran. “It is clear at this point that one of two possibilities apply to this administration: either the president has absolutely no idea what he is doing or the president knows exactly what he is doing and is playing for some other team.”

“Unfortunately, paying a $400 million ransom is no game and the consequences are grave,” Zeldin told The Daily Signal in an interview.

Critics of the deal on Wednesday called on the White House to disclose details of the payment.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew demanding answers on the timing and nature of the money transfer, and how the remaining $1.3 billion will be paid.

Other opponents of the deal predicted the money transfer would have broader repercussions.

“The revelation that the Obama administration ransomed the three Americans being unjustly detained by Iran with $400 million in cash is only the most recent piece of evidence that the so-called nuclear deal with the mullahs is fundamentally illegitimate,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a statement.

“It is nothing but a series of bribes and secret agreements that will do nothing to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear capability, yet will provide funding for their sponsorship of terrorism and encourage them to detain more of our citizens. This ‘deal’ should be ripped to shreds immediately before more damage is done.”

Contested Transaction

In January, the Obama administration announced the implementation of the nuclear deal between the U.S. and Western powers, and Iran, that would constrain Tehran’s nuclear capability in exchange for billions in sanctions relief.

That same weekend, the White House and State Department simultaneously announced a prisoner swap—including the U.S. freeing seven Iranian citizens and dropping extradition requests for 14 others—and the settlement of a financial dispute with Iran that awarded $1.7 billion to Tehran.

But Tuesday night, The Wall Street Journal reported details of the transaction that struck a nerve with Republicans.

The newspaper reported that the administration secretly arranged a plane delivery of $400 million in cash to Iran, representing the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement resolving claims at an international tribunal at The Hague over the sale of military equipment prior to the Iranian revolution.

The United States sold the military equipment to Iran, but Tehran never received the material because the shah was overthrown in the 1979 revolution.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. procured the $400 million from central banks in Switzerland and the Netherlands, since American sanctions prevent dollars from being used in a transaction with Iran.

The White House on Wednesday disputed Republicans’ characterization of the cash payment.

“We would not, we have not, we will not, pay a ransom to secure the release of U.S. citizens,” Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, said at a press conference. “That’s a fact. That is our policy and it is one that we have assiduously followed. The only people who are making that suggestion are right-wingers in Iran who don’t like the deal and Republicans in the United States that don’t like the deal.”

Richard Nephew, a former State Department official who served as the lead sanctions expert for the U.S. team negotiating with Iran, told The Daily Signal that since 1981 the U.S. has been trying to settle various claims from before the revolution.

Nephew said the negotiators were attorneys with the Office of the Legal Adviser at the State Department who were working in the background removed from policy issues related to Iran, including the nuclear component.

He said, in his negotiations with Iran on the nuclear deal before he left the State Department in January 2015, the issue of the outstanding claims to Tehran never came up.

“The reality is a lot of these claims have been settled over the last 30 years that most Americans never heard of,” Nephew said. “This kind of transaction would have happened anyway, without the nuclear deal and prisoner release. I think for opponents of the Iran deal there will always be something you can point to and say this proved how bad the Iran deal is, but we ought to be more careful about how we characterize certain things.”

‘No Coincidence’

U.S. officials have conceded, however, that the Iranians wanted the $400 million money transfer to coincide with the release of the American prisoners to show that Tehran got something of value from the deal.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Iranian media have quoted senior Iranian defense officials describing the cash as a ransom payment.

Gary Samore, Obama’s former chief adviser on nuclear policy, told The Daily Signal in an interview that the cash transfer should not be technically referred to as a ransom, since the money belonged to Iran.

Yet he said the timing of the payment was not coincidental.

“I don’t think the prisoner release would have taken place without a settlement of this dispute,” Samore said. “If you ask would the Iranians have released those four Americans in the absence of an agreement on this long dispute, the answer is no. From Iran’s perspective, getting their hands on their cash was an essential element of releasing the prisoners. The plane with cash arrived on the same day the prisoners came home. That’s no coincidence. That’s quid pro quo.”

‘We Don’t Have Leverage’

Since the implementation of the nuclear deal, Republicans in Congress have sought ways to punish Iran for its continued support of U.S.-declared terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas, and conducting ballistic missile tests.

In addition, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which reports to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has continued to arrest foreign nationals, including Iranian-Americans, since striking the nuclear deal.

Before leaving for its summer recess, the House passed legislation to impose a set of sanctions on Iran, and another measure to block Iran’s access to the U.S. financial system.

“If we want to deal with Iran’s bad activities, which include imprisoning more Iranian-Americans and foreigners, we need to put that leverage back on table,” Zeldin said. “We don’t have leverage right now.”

In the Senate, meanwhile, the Foreign Relations Committee introduced a bill in July that extends the Iran Sanctions Act and adds new sanctions related to ballistic missiles, terrorism, and cybersecurity.

The Obama administration has expressed openness to extend the Iran Sanctions Act, a core element of U.S. sanctions on Tehran that punishes foreign entities supporting Iran’s energy sector and purchase of advanced conventional weapons.

But it views other means of punishment as undermining the nuclear agreement, meaning Iran may have less incentive to comply with the deal. (For more from the author of “Republicans Consider Next Steps After News of Obama Administration Cash Transfer to Iran” please click HERE)

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