The U.S. Does NOT Pay Ransom for Hostages – Until They Do

Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
August 5, 2016

Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee of the Wall Street Journal broke news on August 3rd that the US secretly sent an unmarked cargo plane to Iran in the dead of night loaded with 400 million dollars in various currencies (Euros, Swiss Francs and other currencies) as a payment to the Iranian government. At the exact same time, four Americans who had been held prisoner in Iran were released.

It looks an awful lot like a ransom payment – which the US does NOT do.  Or does it? (I can’t help but think of the trade of Sergeant Bergdahl for five top Taliban leaders…) Given the fact that the American hostages were ready to fly out of Iran but were held up until the “other plane” (the one with the money) arrived, only furthers the impression that this was a classic ransom payment.

The US Administration claims that this was no ransom payment at all, but simply a refund of money that the Shah of Iran had paid the US back in 1979 for weapons, and that the deal fell through when the Ayatollah and radical Islamists took over and turned Iran into the Islamic Republic of Iran and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. President Obama and his spokesmen insist that the “refund” was completely separate from the deal to release these four hostages.

You can find plenty of interviews and articles on both sides of this story. Hillary Clinton says, “this is old news…” (In other words, “what differences does it make.”) The defenders of Obama’s administration will tell you we owed the Iranians this money anyway and that since we were finishing the “legacy” Iranian nuclear deal and getting the American hostages back that this would be just as good a time as any to settle up this 37-year-old debt from the time of the Shah of Iran.

You can come to your own conclusions – but here are a few things to think about:

Why was the money sent in an unmarked cargo plane in the middle of the night?

Why were the hostages told that they could not be released until the money arrived?

Why was the money sent in cash? (The President’s Administration says that it’s illegal to send U.S. dollars and that we don’t have a banking relationship with Iran because of the sanctions, but somehow, I feel that a wire transfer could have been managed – or a series of wire transfers from one country to another. In that way, the money could be traced to some degree – as far as how it was used.) But cash cannot be traced. And there is little doubt in my mind that Iran will use some of that money to continue sponsoring terrorism and destabilizing the region. (Which, if I were cynical, I would say that the US Administration is now complicit with providing material funding to a known state sponsor of terrorism – something any of the rest of us would go to jail for.)

Iranian officials view the money as a paid ransom. Since the payment of this ransom, 2 more Iranian-Americans have been arrested in Iran as well as dual-nationals from France, Canada and the U.K. It doesn’t matter if Obama and Secretary of State Kerry don’t believe this was a ransom payment – the Iranians do – and that’s what they’re saying and telling the world. Not only does this make our president look weak, this endangers other from the West by encouraging kidnapping as beneficial. The price of an American hostage has just been negotiated – it’s 100 million dollars per head.

The Wall Street Journal officials say U.S. officials acknowledge that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible. I believe that’s called “paying a ransom.”

The President’s spokesperson claims that the American public was told about this back in January when the prisoners were released, but the Journal reported that President Obama did not disclose the $400 million cash payment when he announced January 17th that the arms deal dispute had been resolved.

It appears that the Obama administration wanted this deal with Iran so badly that they were willing to do almost anything to get it accomplished – which means that the Iranians were completely in charge of many of the terms of the negotiations and outcomes.

As Dr. Sebastian Gorka, author and professor at the Marine Corps University, pointed out recently that $43.5 billion is owed by Iran to U.S. victims of Iranian attacks including (among others) the attacks in 1983 on the US Marine barracks in Beirut.  So what exactly was our obligation to return this $400 million in the first place? As Dr. Gorka pointed out – if the Weimar German Republic had attempted to buy weapons from us and the deal fell through because of the rise of Hitler as the new leader of Germany, would we have returned $400 million to Hitler? The answer is obvious – because we know exactly how he would have used that money. How desperately did Obama want/need this deal with Iran?

Now that the controversial Iranian deal has been in effect for a year – in all honestly, one has to say that it has been effective in the short run – meaning: Iran has not developed a nuclear weapon. By and large they have met their obligations. But the Iranian economy is not booming back quickly, the lifting of sanctions and international business investment is moving more slowly than Iran had hoped. Hardliners in the Iranian government never liked the nuclear deal to begin with. And I haven’t even addressed the issue of Iran and North Korea’s collaborations or the ever-cozying relationship Iran has with Russia. Iran is not our friend. Iran is continuing its efforts in terrorism and it is far too early to call this deal successful.

In short, Iran will do whatever is in its best interest, our government has just paid ransom for hostages, Iran is using that information to embarrass our leaders.  Our elected officials have lied to us and I don’t think any reasonable person believes Iran will hold to this nuclear deal and restrain themselves from becoming a nuclear nation for 10-15 years. According to some, there is a side deal that would allow Iran to accelerate their nuclear efforts after Obama leaves office. My personal belief is that this story is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s going on regarding U.S. foreign policy, the destabilization of the Middle East, the ideology of the U.S.’s current administration and the desires of nations like Iran, Syria and Russia. Keep your eyes open – I have a feeling the rabbit hole goes deeper and deeper…

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