The United States State Dept. says $400M cash payment to Iran was used as leverage for the release of Americans; wouldn’t have given money until release. According to USA Today, Spokesman John Kirby said negotiations over the United States’ return of Iranian money from a decades-old frozen account was conducted separately from talks to release the prisoners. But he said the U.S. withheld delivery of the cash as leverage until the U.S. citizens had left Iran. Both events happened on Jan. 17.
This revelation comes after the Wall St. Journal reported that the 4 Americans were released through a deal that included removing sanctions from Iran Air the day before the release of U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini, Washington Post Tehran Bureau Chief Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and a businessman Nosratollah Khosrawi-Roodsari. All four are Iranian-born, dual U.S.-Iranian citizens who were visiting or working in Iran when they were detained.
JUST IN: State Dept. says $400M cash payment to Iran was used as leverage for release of Americans; wouldn't have given money until release.
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) August 18, 2016
President Obama and top officials previously denied that the $400 million dollar payment had anything to do with ransom. Originally, they claimed money was the “first installment of the lifting of sanctions called for by the nuclear agreement with Iran.” The White House had also said the money was owed Iran due to a failed arms deal that predated the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran that brought the current government into power.
Naturally, Republicans pounced on the opportunity. Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, said:
“Reports today confirm what many of us have suspected all along: the $400 million payment to Iran was a ransom payment for four Americans unlawfully held by the ayatollahs. Now, terrorist groups and our adversaries around the world know the U.S. will pay old, hard cash for hostages.”
Donald Trump has yet to comment on the matter.