The timing of the $400 million payment to Iran for the release of three American hostages “suggests” that the Obama administration was already talking to officials of Iran Air, which delivered the cash home from Geneva, while it was still listed as a terrorist organization, a former Treasury official said on Friday.
Jonathan Schanzer, now the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, observed in a Fox News interview that state-owned Iran Air was designated as a terrorist entity by the Treasury until January 16, when it was delisted as part of the nuclear deal with Iran.
“On January 15 it was still a designated terrorist organization. On January 16 it was delisted by the Treasury and on the following day executives from Iran Air were involved in the facilitation of that payment of $400 million,” he pointed out. This timeline “is important because it certainly suggests that the administration was talking to Iran Air before it was delisted, in other words, when it was still a terrorist organization,” he said.
Schanzer added that the Justice Department had implicated Iran Air as early as 2009 for transferring IEDs to Iraq, which were responsible for the deaths of 196 American servicemen.
He also noted that delisting usually requires a lengthy legal process, which did not happen in the case of Iran Air on account of the nuclear deal.
Earlier on in the interview, Schanzer said that The Wall Street Journal‘s Thursday report on the $400 million payment confirmed that the hostage release was “directly contingent” on the cash transfer and that, despite the Obama administration’s claims otherwise, “it’s not not ransom.” The Iranian see “the release of those prisoners as directly tied to the delivery of cash that they believe was owed to them,” he added, noting that this was an “extremely dangerous precedent to set.”
Iran Air was originally designated by the Treasury in 2011 partially due to its transport of “potentially dangerous Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-related cargo” and “missile or rocket components” to Syria. In June, the airline flew known weapons resupply routes to Syria three times. A Western intelligence report seen by Reuters in 2012 noted that Iran continued using civilian aircraft to transport large amounts of arms and personnel to aid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
[Photo: Foundation for Defense of Democracies / YouTube ]