Friday, August 19, 2016

State Dept. admits $400 million payment to Iran was contingent on U.S. prisoners’ release

Contradicting President Obama, the State Department acknowledged Thursday that the payment of $400 million toIran in January was contingent on Tehran’s release of four American hostages.

Asked by a reporter if the U.S. wouldn’t have paid the money until the prisoners were released, State Departments spokesman John Kirby replied, “That’s correct.”

The link between the payment — meant to settle an Iranian claim dating back to the 1970s over a blocked arms purchase — and Iran’s decision to release the four Americans, including Washington Post bureau chief Jason Rezaian, has become increasingly controversial in recent days. Mr. Obama and his top aides found themselves under fire for what critics says was a break with the long-standing U.S. practice of not negotiating with terrorist or terrorist-sponsoring regimes for hostages.

While Mr. Kirby didn’t use the word “ransom,” his account differed from Mr. Obama’s assertion Aug. 4 that there was no link between the payment and the release of the hostages.

“We do not pay ransom,” Mr. Obama insisted, saying the two negotiations went along completely separate tracks. “We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future.”

Administration officials also said the $400 million payment — although not the details of how it was carried out — was disclosed in January at the same time as the hostages were being released.

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