The Obama administration secretly airlifted the equivalent of $400 million in foreign currency to Iran this past January on the same day four American detainees were released by Tehran, according to U.S. and European officials, despite the U.S. denying that there ever was a ransom payment.
Officials told the Wall Street Journal that the unmarked cargo plane was filled with Swiss francs, euros and other forms of currency, since having a transaction using U.S. currency is illegal under U.S. law. The exchange was four American citizens for seven Iranian citizens.
The January 17th airlift that was arranged by the Obama administration was claimed to be the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement that was supposedly reached with Iran after a failed arms deal that dated back to 1979. This validity of this “owed money” has been debated for decades.
The announcement of the settlement was made one day after the prisoner exchange occurred and only a few days after the U.S. and a few other countries reached a nuclear deal with Iran. Obama did not mention the $400 million cash transaction to release the American detainees. The Obama administration refused to release how the $1.7 billion exchange was paid except saying it was not paid in dollars.
The U.N and the U.S believe that Tehran is subsidizing Assad regime’s war in Syria, so some lawmakers believe that Iran is using the cash to fund the Assad regime as well as Lebanese Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers to be a terrorist organization.
The director of the CIA, John Brennan denied this claim at a conference in Colorado last week. “The money, the revenue that’s flowing into Iran is being used to support its currency, to provide moneys to the departments and agencies, build up its infrastructure,” Brennan said.
State Department spokesman, John Kirby denied the transaction to release the four Americans ever occurred. The four Americans released were former U.S. Marine, Amir Hekmati, Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari.
“As we’ve made clear, the negotiations over the settlement of an outstanding claim at the Hague Tribunal were completely separate from the discussions about returning our American citizens home,” spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “Not only were the two negotiations separate, they were conducted by different teams on each side.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran negotiators wanted the currency as a showing of good faith and to get something out of the exchange.