The Obama administration is vigorously denying that the shipment if $400 million to Iran was a ransom payment for the release of American hostages earlier this year, but the former chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence says the timing and the secrecy make it clear the U.S. clearly bought off the Iranian captors.
The Wall Street Journal broke the story Tuesday, detailing what happened back in January while most Americans were focused on the release of the prisoners.
“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 story reads.
“Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, according to these officials. The U.S. procured the money from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland,” wrote reporters Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee.
“The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi,” they wrote.
Early Tuesday morning, State Department spokesman, John Kirby denied any connection between the massive money transfer and the freeing of the hostages.
“We just don’t pay ransom. It is our policy. This was not ransom. Any suggestion that it had anything to do with ransom is absolutely and utterly false. These were two separate processes run by two separate teams. Yes, they were done simultaneously, so I understand the coincidental nature of the timing. But it had absolutely nothing to do with ransom. We do not and will not pay ransom,” said Kirby on the Fox news Channel.
Former House Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., isn’t buying that explanation one bit.
“Absolutely it’s a ransom payment,” Hoekstra told WND and Radio America. “This is a president that has all along been willing to negotiate and make a deal, and if the deal included ransom he has been open to it.”
“If it walks like a duck, if it talks like a duck, it’s a duck. This is a ransom payment,” he said.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich.:
Hoekstra said the idea that the Obama administration is horrified by the suggestion it paid ransom for hostages doesn’t even square with U.S. policy on the issue, a policy Obama unilaterally changed.
“He made it very, very clear this summer that if families wanted to pursue paying ransom for family members or friends who were being held hostage, the U.S. government would assist them in that process and would never, ever prosecute them,” Hoekstra said.
Prior to the policy change, the U.S. government forbade families of hostages from negotiating financial terms for the release of their loved ones and did threaten federal prosecution.
As a result of the policy shift and this report, Hoekstra fears terrorists will declare open season on Americans abroad.
“This now clearly sets the precedent that if Iran, ISIS or other groups hold Americans hostage that they can now expect that the United States will negotiate with them and will pay them a ransom. Not always, but that option now exists where previously it did not,” Hoekstra said.
Even more, Hoekstra says Obama undercut the efforts of Americans to claim some of that $1.7 billion from Iran due to damages caused by Iranian-backed terrorism.
“They were going after the Iranians in U.S. courts to collect damages that the Iranians had imposed on these individuals,” he said. “It’s not like they were only litigating whether this was Iranian money or not. There were also U.S. citizens who were attempting to litigate and get settlements for the damages that they received from Iran.”
In addition to the convenient timing of the money transfer, Hoekstra said if there was no connection to the hostage release, why are Americans only learning about this now?
“If it’s purely a coincidence, then why all the secrecy?” he asked. “Why pallets of money coming from the Hague on an unmarked plane flying out of Switzerland? Why no transparency to Congress? Why no transparency to the American people as this was being negotiated?”
“If it’s all above board, then give us the transparency up front,” Hoekstra added.
Hoekstra is a fierce opponent of the Iranian nuclear deal, but he said at the very least the U.S. should have insisted upon the hostages being released as part of the deal. But the former chairman says it’s just another example of Obama giving away the store to America’s adversaries and getting almost nothing in return. While pleased the hostages are free, he said Obama has a record of making poor deals.
“They have fundamentally turned America’s foreign policy head over heels, now negotiating ransom payments for hostages, embracing the Muslim Brotherhood, embracing the regime in Iran, embracing Cuba. The list goes on and on,” Hoekstra said.
“In almost all of those negotiations, America has gotten very little benefit from massive changes in our foreign policy.”