On Tuesday, the Obama administration briefed Congress about the details of a $1.7 billion payment made to the Iranian government. The payment was the result of a the settlement of an arbitration claim between the U.S. and Iran that had been pending for 37 years. The payment was made in hard cash, and entirely in foreign currency, consisting of Swiss francs and euros.
The money was sent in three installments, over the course of January and February of this year. The first, consisting of $400 million, was sent on January 17, 2016. That same day, Iran agreed to release four American prisoners to the United States.
The remaining $1.3 billion represented the interest owed on American-held Iranian money since the 1970s. This was the first time the Obama administration has said that sum was also paid in cash.
Republicans have accused the White House of paying this money as a ransom for the American prisoners held in Tehran. Former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said that the payment was “legal, but not right.” However, the Obama administration claimed that the prisoner release and the cash transfer were not related, asserting that the money was simply the resolution of a legal claim. The White House did acknowledge that they had used the pending payment as leverage for the prisoners’ release, but denied that they paid the money specifically in exchange for the American prisoners.
Not everyone has believed the White House’s statements, however.
“The U.S. government should not be in the business of negotiating with terrorists and paying ransom money in exchange for the release of American hostages,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said in a statement.
Republican members of Congress have introduced legislation to prevent such payouts in the future, limiting specifically the ability for the White House to send cash payments to Iran.
Photo Credit: http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/15/politics/obama-secretary-of-state/