U.S. State Department Spokesperson John Kirby
U.S. State Department Spokesperson John Kirby

The U.S. State Department confirmed that a the $400 million cash shipment to Iran was tied to a prisoner release that occurred last January. Iranian-Americans Amir Hekmati, Jason Rezaian, Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosravi were released in exchange of release seven Iranians who were detained for sanctions violations.

The administration denies this cash shipment, which included Swiss Francs and other foreign currencies, was a ransom paid to Iran. They state they held onto the money for leverage in order to make sure that the Iranians would follow through on the release.

“We were able to conclude multiple strands of diplomacy within a 24-hour period including implementation of the nuclear deal, prisoner talks, and the settlement of an outstanding Hague tribunal claim that saved American taxpayers potentially billions of dollars,” U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said during a press briefing.

“As we said at the time we deliberately leveraged that moment to finalize those outstanding issues nearly simultaneously as it is already publicly known that we returned to Iran its 400 million dollars in that same time period as part of the Hague settlement agreement. With concerns that Iran might renege on the prisoner release given unnecessary delays regarding persons in Iran who could not be located, as well as  – to be honest, mutual mistrust between Iran and the United States we, of course, sought to retain maximum leverage until after American citizens were released. That was our top priority,” Kirby added.

Considering this administration has lied to us before, namely Benghazi, why should we trust it when it says this was “just leverage.”

The $400 million was part of a claim made during the U.S.-Iran Claims Tribunal that began in 1981. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released the following statement on January 17.

The United States and Iran today have settled a long outstanding claim at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in the Hague.

This specific claim was in the amount of a $400 million Trust Fund used by Iran to purchase military equipment from the United States prior to the break in diplomatic ties. In 1981, with the reaching of the Algiers Accords and the creation of the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, Iran filed a claim for these funds, tying them up in litigation at the Tribunal.

This is the latest of a series of important settlements reached over the past 35 years at the Hague Tribunal. In constructive bilateral discussions, we arrived at a fair settlement to this claim, which due to litigation risk, remains in the best interests of the United States.

Iran will receive the balance of $400 million in the Trust Fund, as well as a roughly $1.3 billion compromise on the interest. Iran’s recovery was fixed at a reasonable rate of interest and therefore Iran is unable to pursue a bigger Tribunal award against us, preventing U.S. taxpayers from being obligated to a larger amount of money.

All of the approximately 4,700 private U.S. claims filed against the Government of Iran at the Tribunal were resolved during the first 20 years of the Tribunal, resulting in payments of more than $2.5 billion in awards to U.S. nationals and companies through that process.

There are still outstanding Tribunal claims, mostly by Iran against the U.S. We will continue efforts to address these claims appropriately.

President Obama was not forthright. He did not acknowledge the timing and the fact it was linked to the release of four prisoners was inappropriate. No discussion of cash settlements should have been made in conjunction to a prisoner release, and frankly no cash settlement should have been given. Iran has continued to be a bad actor in the world financing terrorism and fighting the United States by proxy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Obama administration can call this leverage, but we all know it was a ransom that has further emboldened Iran.

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