US denies $400M Iran payment was ransom

US denies $400M Iran payment was ransom

'The United States does not pay ransoms,' White House insists

ADDS REACTION FROM STATE DEPARTMENT

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – A secretive exchange of funds to Iranian authorities was not a ransom payment made in order to free Americans held in Iran, the White House insisted Wednesday.

“No, it was not,” spokesman Josh Eanrest told reporters. “The United States does not pay ransoms.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the Obama administration secretly orchestrated an airlift of $400 million in cash to Iran in January when four Americans were released from Iranian custody.

The funds were linked to a $1.7 billion settlement between the United States and Iran stemming from a failed arms deal with exiled Iranian monarch Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

The military equipment was not delivered to Iran following the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The exchange coincided with the implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran and the release of the American prisoners, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian.

Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the Journal said Iranian negotiators working on the prisoner exchange "wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible."

Earnest said the only ones making those accusations are “right-wingers in Iran who don't like the deal and Republicans in the United States that don't like the deal.

"The facts of this are quite clear," he said. "It's an indication of just how badly opponents of the Iran deal are struggling to justify their opposition to a successful deal that has prevented, and continues to prevent Iran, from developing a nuclear weapon."

The State Department also denied a link between the money and release of Americans, but said it was not sure whether the hostages were already released when the money showed up in Iran.

Spokesman Mark Toner said sending the cash to Iran on a plane was because Tehran was still not very much engaged in the international banking system.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said if the Journal's reporting is accurate it "confirms our longstanding suspicion that the administration paid a ransom in exchange for Americans unjustly detained in Iran.

"It would also mark another chapter in the ongoing saga of misleading the American people to sell this dangerous nuclear deal," he said in a statement.

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