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National Security & Defense

More U.S. Ransom Payments to Iran Revealed

Yesterday the Obama administration finally admitted that, in addition to the $400 million in foreign currency secretly flown to Iran on January 17, 2016, it also sent Iran two more planeloads of $1.3 billion in cash over the following 19 days.

Since these payments coincided with the release of four Americans illegally held by Iran, they have been widely condemned as ransom. The Obama administration disputes this and claims that the payments were to settle a U.S. debt to Iran incurred during the rule of the Shah. However, after initially insisting there was no link between the $400 million payment and the release of the Americans, the administration said on August 18 that it delayed this payment as leverage to ensure that Iran would release the U.S. prisoners.

The additional payments were an open secret in Washington ever since an August 22 New York Sun article by Claudia Rosett revealed 13 transfers of $99,999,999.99 from the Treasury Department to the State Department’s “Judgment Fund” (a fund used to resolve foreign claims) on January 19, 2016, to pay an undisclosed foreign claim. Rosett wrote that the State Department acknowledged in letters to Congress in March that the United States paid $1.3 billion out of the Judgment Fund to Iran as interest on the $400 million payment but did not explain how this money was paid.

The administration continues to peddle the preposterous claim that that the $1.7 billion payment was not linked to the prisoner release and was paid to resolve a dispute pending before the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal at The Hague. Obama administration officials maintain that this payment may have saved the U.S. taxpayer billions because the court was likely to order the United States to pay a much larger settlement. These claims are so ridiculous that even liberal late-night host Stephen Colbert mocked the administration for making them, saying that “a lot of people are saying this sounds like ransom because they know what the word ‘ransom’ means.”

Many Republican Congressmen insist that these payments set a dangerous precedent of normalizing the payment of ransoms to a state sponsor of terror. Senator Marco Rubio yesterday introduced the “No Ransom Act” to prohibit the federal government from paying ransom to Iran. The bill would also stop any further payments to Iran from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Judgment Fund until Iran returns the ransom money it received and pays the American victims of Iranian terrorism what they are owed, a sum estimated to be $53 billion. Rubio’s bill is co-sponsored by Republicans senators Cornyn, Kirk, Ayotte, Barrasso, Capito, Scott, Burr, Johnson, Fischer, Cotton, Perdue, Collins, Isakson, Risch, and Heller. Congressman Mike Pompeo introduced the same bill in the House and will be joined by many GOP co-sponsors.

In addition to last month’s revelation that the Obama administration flew a secret planeload of cash as a ransom payment to win the release of U.S. prisoners without informing Congress, we now know that there were two more secret payments to Iran that also were not disclosed to Congress. This is more evidence, as Andrew McCarthy and I have said many times on NRO, that the nuclear deal with Iran is a dangerous and growing national security fraud.

Fred Fleitz, president of the Center for Security Policy, served in 2018 as deputy assistant to the president and to the chief of staff of the National Security Council. He previously held national-security jobs with the CIA, the DIA, the Department of State, and the House Intelligence Committee staff. He is the editor of the 2020 book Defending against Biothreats.


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