After months of denials that the United States paid a ransom to Iran, the State Department confirmed on Thursday that the Obama administration’s transfer of $400 million in cash to Iran was contingent upon the release of three American hostages.
At the State Department’s daily press briefing, Associated Press journalist Bradley Klapper asked Spokesman John Kirby, “You’re saying that you wouldn’t give them the 400 million in cash until the prisoners were released. Correct?” Kirby answered, “That’s correct.”
The admission comes after the Obama administration repeatedly denied that there was any connection between the payment and the release of American hostages. Kirby himself tweeted earlier this month that “Reports of link between prisoner release & payment to Iran are completely false.”
— John Kirby (@statedeptspox) August 3, 2016
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that American officials did not allow Iran to take possession of the planeload of $400 million in European currencies until the three American hostages – Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini – were freed. Once that happened, the cash was sent from Geneva to Iran.
Days after the Journal first broke the story of the quid pro quo payment earlier this month, Abedini said in an interview that an Iranian intelligence officer told him that the hostages could not be let go until the Iranians received more information about “another plane.”
The revelations led to intense criticism of the Obama administration and accusations of a ransom payment. Notably, the $400 million payment was made despite concerns expressed by senior Justice Department officials that it would appear to be a ransom.
The cargo plane that was used to fly the cash payment from Geneva to Iran belonged to Iran Air, which was designated as a terrorist entity by the Treasury Department in 2011 for being used by Iran to transport military-related equipment, including rockets and missiles. While the Obama administration dropped sanctions on the airline as part of the nuclear deal, U.S. officials have not indicated that such shipments have stopped.
[Photo: C-SPAN / YouTube ]