In an astonishing admission, the Obama administration admitted today that it secured the release of several American citizen hostages from Iran by releasing a $400 million cash payment as "maximum leverage" with the government of the Islamic Republic. In a press conference today, State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters, "The payment of the $400 million was not done until after the prisoners were released."
While avoiding the term "ransom" to describe the payment, Kirby did admit that the $400 million was indeed "connected" to the hostages’ release. Orginally, the payment was heralded as first tranche of payments to resolve a dispute about money owed to Iran by the United States in an abortive weapons sale that had been agreed upon before the 1979 revolution that brought the fanatical anti-American Muslim government to power.
"We, of course, sought to retain maximum leverage until after American citizens were released, and that was our top priority," Kirby said. "If your top priority is to get your Americans out and you're already having some issues about locating some of them, [then] you want to make sure that that release gets done before you complete that transaction."
Unconfirmed photo of pallet of cash payment to Iran
Kirby thus contradicted his colleague, State Department spokespersons Elizabeth Trudeau, who told the media on August 8 that there was "no timing" that connected the cash to freeing the prisoners. "There was no timing that was associated between the two," Trudeau said. "I'm not going to get into a tick-tock. What I do, though, want to disassociate the idea — that you haven't said but has been in the public narrative — that there was some sort of tie between the two."
This admission would appear to validate what House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and other Republicans have said all along. "In January, House Republicans raised concerns about what appeared to be a ransom payment for the release of Americans unjustly imprisoned by Iran," said spokesman Doug Andres. "For months, the president and his spokespeople denied that he had reversed decades of U.S. policy by ransoming the freedom of American citizens."
"Today, State Department spokesmen John Kirby finally admitted it," he added. "As the president once acknowledged, paying ransom 'risks endangering more Americans and funding the very terrorism that we're trying to stop.' He owes the American people a full and honest accounting of the ransom payment made in January."
President Barack Obama proclaimed earlier this year that the United States had arranged for the prisoners’ release upon the conclusion of the Iran nuclear agreement. Also part of the deal was the granting of clemency by the United States to six Iranian-Americans and one Iranian who were serving jail sentences.
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