By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, August 18, 2016, State Department Spokesman John Kirby admitted what many Republicans had already suspected. A January cash payment of $400 million to Iran, was contingent on Iran releasing four Americans being held prisoner there. Republicans, including members of Alabama’s Congressional delegation were quick to criticize the revelation that the US government paid, what some claim to be a ransom to get the hostages back.
Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Saks) said in a statement, “No amount of spin can cover the fact that the President and State Department were complicit in an act of ransom. By their careless actions, the Obama Administration has now put a price on the heads of US hostages. While we are still learning more about this dangerous agreement, I will do everything in my power to ensure that this administration is held accountable for putting American lives at risk.”
US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said in his statement, “The Obama Administration has finally acknowledged that a $400 million cash payment to Iran seven months ago was contingent on their release of a group of American prisoners – making it a hostage-ransom arrangement as many of us suspected from the beginning.”
Sen. Shelby said, “The Administration blatantly misled the American people and recklessly ignored our nation’s standard against paying ransom for hostages. This action sets a dangerous precedent by making Americans and our allies potential targets.”
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said, “How can the Obama Administration continue to say the $400 million payment to Iran wasn’t ransom? The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that the US held the money until Iran had officially freed the US prisoners. The ransom payment is bad enough, but lying about only makes things worse.”
Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) said on social media, “We’ve gone from not negotiating with terrorists to paying a ransom to the leading state sponsor of terrorism.”
Kirby said that President Obama’s team used a $400 million cash payment as “maximum leverage” to get Iran to release American hostages…The payment of the $400 million was not done until after the prisoners were released.”
The money the United States owed Iran dates back to weapons sales deals that the US friendly Shah of Iran had made with the US When Islamic revolutionaries overthrew the Shah and the Ayatollah Khomeini led Iranian government seized American hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran. The weapons were never delivered, even though Iran had made down payment on the purchases. President Jimmy Carter (D) froze Iranian assets in the United States and sanctions were imposed on the rogue nation….sanctions that were finally lifted in 2015 by President Obama as part of international multi-party negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. According to the Administration, the US owed Iran the $400 million from back in the 1970s.
The Administration’s lifting of the sanctions freed up $100 billion of frozen Iranian assets; but releasing four Americans being held hostage by the country was not part of that deal.
In January, however, the US exchanged seven Iranians who were arrested for espionage and offenses related to violating the sanctions for four Americans. Washington Post Reporter Jason Rezaian, former US Marine Amir Hekmati and Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini were flown out of the country. Mr. Rezaian’s wife, Yageneh Salehi, and his mother were also allowed to leave the country. The fourth American freed in the exchange, Nosratollah Khosravi, chose to remain in Tehran. A fifth American, Matthew Trevithick also was freed and left Iran though that was a separate deal.
The administration made the release of the hostages a contingency on the $400 million.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) released a statement today on the Obama administration’s $400 million ransom payment to Iran: “Today, the State Department admitted what we’ve long suspected—that the president and his administration have been misleading us since January about whether he ransomed the freedom of the Americans unjustly imprisoned in Iran. The president owes the American people a full accounting of his actions and the dangerous precedent he has set.”
President Obama had described the prisoner exchange as a “reciprocal humanitarian gesture.”
Original reporting by Fox News, the Washington Examiner, and the New York Times contributed to this report.