U.S. accused of sending Iran $400 million in ransom money

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The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the U.S. government organized a secret cash payment of $400 million to Iran in January, which took place just as four Americans detained in Tehran were released.

The Journal cited U.S. and European officials and congressional sources in its report that the government obtained the money from central banks in Switzerland and the Netherlands. The cash was stacked on wooden pallets and flown to Tehran in an unmarked cargo plane.

Critics claim that this indicates the Obama administration paid Iran ransom money in exchange for the release, which sets a dangerous precedent and could spur Iran to continue to illegally detain American citizens.

Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, and whom the the Wall Street Journal reports has been staunchly against the Iran nuclear deal, accused President Obama of paying “a $1.7 billion ransom to the ayatollahs for U.S. hostages.”

“This break with long-standing U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures” of Americans, Cotton said.

However, U.S. officials say the money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement that was reached with Iran to resolve a failed arms deal that is decades-old , and was signed before the Iranian revolution in 1979, according to the Journal.

Senior U.S. officials are vehemently denying that there was any connection between the payment and the prisoner exchange, adding that the timing of the settlement, release and payment were simply coincidental.

1. Depiction of P5+1 making a nuclear agreement
2. Depiction of money from Netherlands and Switzerland being flown to Iran
3. Depiction of four Americans being released in Iran

VOICEOVER (in English):

“The U.S. is being accused paying Iran ransom for the release of four Americans. However, the U.S. claims the money a first installment to settle an old dispute over a failed arms deal. This settlement took place the same week the U.S., Iran and five other nations formalized a landmark nuclear agreement.”

“U.S. officials say the value of $400 million in cash was obtained from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland, and were stacked onto wooden pallets before being flown to Iran on an unmarked cargo plane in January.”

“The timing coincided with the release of four Americans who were being detained in Tehran.”

Wall Street Journal