Report: $400M flown to Iran as U.S. prisoners freed

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Source: USA Today

By 

The Obama administration secretly airlifted $400 million in cash to Iran in January to settle a decades-old legal dispute just as the Iranians were releasing four Americans detained byTehran, The Wall Street Journal reportedWednesday.

The Journal, citing U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation, said wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currency were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane.

The money was the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the administration reached with Iran to resolve a 37-year-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the fall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979. The legal wrangling was being arbitrated before the international tribunal in The Hague.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that the payment was not ransom for the release of the prisoners, and that the claims were an example of the lengths to which opponents of the Iran deal will go to discredit it.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump took to Twitter Wednesday to criticize his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, over the report.

“Our incompetent Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was the one who started talks to give 400 million dollars, in cash, to Iran. Scandal!” Trump tweeted.

Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas and a strong opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, accused Obama of paying “a $1.7 billion ransom to the ayatollahs for U.S. hostages,” the Journal reported. Iranian press reports quoted senior Iranian defense officials describing the cash as a ransom payment.

The four prisoners included two Iranian-Americans arrested by Iranian security services during Obama’s first term, the detention of Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief, in 2014 on espionage charges and the arrest in 2015 of a fourth Iranian-American.

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