A couple weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported on a curiously timed cash transfer from the U.S. to Iran. Four hundred million dollars went to the Persian nation, right around when several U.S. hostages were freed from captivity.
Coincidence? Yea, said the White House. It was a cash transfer in the works from long ago, for some … things. Stuff. You know. Things. Please stop asking.
The Wall Street Journal hasn’t stopped though, and now they have more details on the process. Answer for yourself. Does this sound like ransom to you?
The picture emerged from accounts of U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation: U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17. Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash home from a Geneva airport that day.
The use of an Iranian cargo plane to move pallets filled with $400 million brings clarity to one of the mysteries surrounding the cash delivery to Iran first reported by The Wall Street Journal this month. Administration officials have refused to publicly disclose how and when the transfer took place. Executives from Iran’s flagship carrier, Iran Air, organized the flight from Tehran to Geneva where the cash—euros and Swiss francs and other currencies—was loaded onto the aircraft, these people said.
“Our top priority was getting the Americans home,” said a U.S. official. Once the Americans were “wheels up” on the morning of Jan. 17, Iranian officials in Geneva were allowed to take custody of the $400 million in currency, according to officials briefed on the exchange.
U.S. officials continue to insist that the $400 million was merely the first payment in a long-ago negotiated $1.7 billion settlement and that cash needed to be used because the U.S. does not have a formal banking relationship with Iran.
Republican lawmakers are demanding hearings on the matter when Congress returns from recess.
UPDATE: A State Department spokesman admitted that the money was held until the hostages were freed, but because it was payment for something else, it was not a ransom, reports the Daily Mail.
State Department spokesman John Kirby repeated the administration’s line that the negotiations to return the Iranian money — from a decades-old military-equipment deal with the U.S.-backed shah in the 1970s — were conducted separately from the talks to free four U.S. citizens in Iran.
But he said the U.S. withheld the delivery of the cash as leverage until Iran permitted the Americans to leave the country.
[Via The Wall Street Journal]