The Obama administration has instructed us that Obamacare’s tax is not a tax, that its policy of not enforcing immigration law is “prosecutorial discretion,” and that hundreds of American military personnel on the ground in Iraq and Syria are not “boots on the ground.” So it’s not surprising to hear from the President this week that money paid in exchange for hostages is not a “ransom”.
The administration insists that’s not what we should call the planeload of $400 million in cash that arrived in Iran at the same time as four American hostages were released in January.
Thankfully, the facts are in less dispute than the definition of the word.
In negotiations that led to the release of the hostages, the Wall Street Journal reports, “The Iranians were demanding the return of $400 million” sent to the U.S. in 1979, and “they also wanted billions of dollars as interest accrued since then.”
Since it would be a violation of U.S. law to pay the regime in U.S. dollars however, the Journal reports that the Treasury Department asked European central banks to change its payment into Euros and Swiss Francs before loading the notes on a plane and flying them to Iran.
There, one of the hostages involved told Fox News, the Iranian captors told the Americans they were “waiting for another plane” before they would be released.
So to review: the Iranians made a demand for $400 million in exchange for releasing the hostages. The U.S. government went to extraordinary lengths to deliver $400 million to Iran. And as a result, the hostages were released. But this wasn’t a ransom situation?
“No, it was not,” says White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “It is against the policy of the United States to pay ransom for hostages.”
“We do not pay ransom,” President Obama echoed. “We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future.”
In his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell describes words for which “the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.” Perhaps President Obama’s own private definition of “ransom” requires the use of a paper bag–or U.S. dollars.
Whatever the President’s beliefs about what he’s done, however, clearly he has sent a signal to Iran that the regime can take hostages and extract concessions. The $400 million in cash will likely endanger more Americans and result in more false imprisonments.
It is worth remembering that prisoners whose stories are known to the public had done absolutely nothing wrong, and should never have been imprisoned to begin with. No payment should have been required to secure their release. And yet the same administration that recently arrested a police officer who tried to send $245 to ISIS has now sent hundreds of millions to the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.
That Iran would take innocent Americans hostage for ransom is a reminder of how untrustworthy and dangerous a regime the Obama administration is dealing with on nuclear weapons. Such actions are one of the reasons there are sanctions on the country in the first place.
Indeed, those restrictions made the $400 million in cash an even sweeter deal than it might seem. It solved a serious problem for the regime.
As a senior U.S. official explained to the Wall Street Journal, “Sometimes the Iranians want cash because it’s so hard for them to access things in the international financial system. They know it can take months just to figure out how to wire money from one place to another.”
In other words, Iran got more than its money’s worth out of the plane full of cash. And what did the regime do with it? As Bloomberg reported, the funds are going straight into their war chest: “Iran’s Guardian Council approved the government’s 2017 budget that instructed Iran’s Central Bank to transfer the $1.7 billion [the ransom plus interest] to the military.”
So the Obama administration hasn’t just struck a deal with Iran that will allow it to obtain nuclear weapons. In paying the ransom money, the U.S. has also funded the military that could seek to use those weapons against us.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich comments on political affairs at his website.