$400 million payment to Iran was ransom for prisoners, accounts of transaction suggest – Washington Times

The Obama administration has insisted its $400 million handover to Iran was unrelated to Tehran’s same-day freeing of Americans being held by the Islamic Republic.

But detailed accounts of the payment from U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation who spoke to the Wall Street Journal tell a completely different story. Their accounts describe a rigid and time-sensitive quid-pro-quo involving the money and the prisoners.

“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, the officials said. Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash back from a Geneva airport that day, according to the accounts,” the Journal wrote.

Administration officials had refused to discuss the details of how the money — owed to Iran from a deposit on a decades-old weapons sale that was never consummated — was turned over to Iran. Officials, including President Obama himself, would say only that it had to be provided to Iran in cash because the Islamist regime had no normal banking ties.

But the Journal report shows a much tighter relationship between the money and the freeing of the prisoners than the mere coinciding that the administration had claimed.

The Journal reported that only when the plane carrying the American prisoners was “wheels up” could the Iranian plane leave Switzerland.

Before the cash swap was made, Justice Department officials had objected, saying it’d be seen as ransom for hostages, and some U.S. politicians agreed. The Journal report prompted a fresh round of criticism from the Republican National Committee.

“It’s time for the Obama White House to drop the charade and admit it paid a $400 million ransom to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. President Obama has foolishly put a price on the head of every American abroad and it should be no surprise that Iran has since detained more U.S. citizens,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement that went on to attack Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“Hillary Clinton’s support for this dangerous blunder shows once again she does not have the judgement to be president,” Mr. Priebus said.

Once Congress gets back from its August recess, Rep. Sean Duffy, Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the Financial Services Committee’s oversight and investigations subcommittee, will hold hearings on the transfer.

Mr. Duffy has sent letters to the Federal Reserve, and the Justice and Treasury departments requesting all records related to the Iran exchange.

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