State Dept. Confirms $400 million Iran Payment Was Used as Leverage to Free Hostages

Thursday, the State Department confirmed that the United States conditioned the release of a $400 million cash payment to Iran on the departure of American prisoners from Tehran. Republicans are feeling vindicated with the announcement as there has been speculation that the $400 million was actually ransom. The State Department and the Obama Administration argued that the return of the funds were not ransom but a return of funds that harken back to 1970’s.


State Department spokesman John Kirby speaking at a news conference told reporters that U.S. held on to the $400 million cash payment until American prisoners were on a plane and safely away from Tehran in order to “retain maximum leverage.” In his statement, Kirby said that “We deliberately leveraged that moment to finalize these outstanding issues nearly simultaneously.” Kirby acknowledge that there are those who see it as a ransom but Kirby insisted it was not.

Kirby addressed the suggestion that the Obama Administration had played fast and loose with the return of the 1970’s era money.  Kirby insisted that “with concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release, given unnecessary delays regarding persons in Iran who could not be located as well as, to be quite honest, mutual mistrust between Iran and the United States, we of course sought to retain maximum leverage until after American citizens were released. That was our top priority.” The question of whether the return of funds was a ransom is one that will not go away anytime soon, especially with the 2016 Presidential Election.


The definition of ransom is “obtain the release of (a prisoner) by making a payment demanded.” The payment of the $400 million looks like a legitimate ransom but there is one difference which is glaring. The money that was turned over to Iran was their own money. It was money that had been paid to the U.S for weapons that were never delivered. The money was ordered returned due to an agreement that was reached between the two countries as the case continued through the years with The Hague Tribunal. Iran had sought action to receive $10 billion dollars. The $400 million was a compromise between the two countries.


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