5 Times the Obama Admin Insisted Cash Was the Only Way to Pay Iran
As details of the administration’s $1.7 billion cash payment to Iran began to leak last month, the administration argued – from President Obama on down – that there was simply no other way to pay Iran. “We couldn’t send them a check and we could not wire the money,” the president said on August 4.
That was flat-out false: “A Treasury Department spokesman acknowledged on Saturday that on at least two occasions, the U.S. did make payments to the Iranian government via wire transfer,” Politico reports. “In July 2015, the same month in which the U.S., Iran and other countries announced a landmark nuclear agreement, the U.S. government paid the Islamic [R]epublic approximately $848,000. That payment settled a claim over architectural drawings and fossils that are now housed in the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and Iran’s Ministry of Environment, respectively. Then, in April 2016, the U.S. wired Iran approximately $9 million to remove 32 metric tons of its heavy water, which is used to produce plutonium and can aid in the making of nuclear weapons.”
But that didn’t stop the administration – on at least five occasions – from claiming otherwise:
- “Now, as it relates to the details, the fact of the matter is the United States does not have a banking relationship with Iran. And the reason for that is that the administration — the Obama administration — has kept in place tough financial sanctions against Iran because of a variety of concerns that we have about their behavior, including their support for terrorism, their violation of human rights, and a ballistic missile program that they maintain that continues to be inconsistent with U.N. Security Council…resolutions.” (White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 8/3/16)
- “Iran was at that time, and frankly still is to some degree, relatively disconnected from the international financial system. And so that raised certain challenges in getting them their money. It couldn’t be done over wire transfers… So, bearing in mind that, we had to figure out ways to get them the money. We don’t have — we’ve never re-established a direct banking relationship with Iran and still, frankly, don’t intend to do so.” (State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner, 8/3/16)
- “The reason that we had to give them cash is precisely because we are so strict in maintaining sanctions and we do not have a banking relationship with Iran that we couldn’t send them a check and we could not wire the money.” (President Barack Obama, 8/4/16)
- “The reason that paper currency was used to make the transfer is because there’s no banking relationship between the United States and Iran. So it’s because of our commitment to ensuring the isolation of Iran that the transaction was carried out in this way.” (White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 8/22/16)
- “Treasury Department spokeswoman Dawn Selak said in a statement the cash payments were necessary because of the ‘effectiveness of U.S. and international sanctions,’ which isolated Iran from the international finance system.” (9/6/16)
This means the administration’s two key claims about the $1.7 billion cash payment – 1) that it was separate from the release of American hostages and 2) it couldn’t have been done any other way – have been exposed as completely untrue.
So was this gross incompetence, or was it purposeful deception? The American people deserve honest answers. And at the same time, they need to know this isn’t going to happen again.
The United States has a longstanding policy not to pay ransom, because it puts bigger targets on the backs of Americans overseas. In the months since the White House forked over pallets of untraceable cash, Iran has accelerated its illicit ballistic missile program and seized at least three more Americans.
That’s why, this week, the House will vote on Chairman Royce’s bill to block future ransoms and stop cash payments to Iran – the world’s leading state sponsor of terror – for any reason. Learn more about the bill HERE.