Time: 10:28 p.m. CEST
The White House denied on Wednesday that the U.S. made the payment of $400 million in cash to Iran in an about same time when Iran released four American prisoners in January. The White House press secretary Josh Earnest, who was grilled by the correspondents on Wednesday briefing on the story first reported by the Wall Street Journal, denied any possibility the $400 million went for ransom.
Earnest repeated the policy of the United States to not pay ransom for hostages. “The U.S. does not pay ransom,” Earnest repeated several times as the correspondents pushed back and forth with the question on the Wall Street Journal article.
In the Wall Street Journal’s article U.S. sends cash to Iran as Americans were freed, written by Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee, both wrote, “The Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran, according to U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation afterward.”
In addition, the authors Solomon and Lee said, “Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, according to these officials.”
The Wall Street Journal is very descriptive in the eventual occurrence in operation of sending money to Iran in the time when the two countries do not have any banking relations because of the sanctions, which lifting in most could depend on the Congress. Iran’s burden with the sanctions is less after the last year Iran Nuclear Deal, which President Barack Obama would like to list under his legacy.
Later in the evening, ABC News claims that two officials confirmed to them, “that the $400 million was paid to Iran in euros, Swiss francs and other foreign currencies and was delivered to Tehran via a private non-U.S. aircraft.” Earnest declined to confirm the details reported by The Wall Street Journal— such as “Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane” and referred the correspondents to the Treasury Department.
In the explanation for the financial transactions, Earnest pointed out, the $400 million was money Iran paid to a U.S. account in 1979 for buying a military equipment, but when the shah was overturned, the equipment never arrived.
“It is also why it was hard for the United States to make an argument in this case that we can just keep the money. So, what the United States did was resolve a longstanding claim at The Hague that saved the American people potentially billions of dollars.”
The U.S. owes to Iran an additional $1,3 billion in accumulated interest and that money will be from the U.S. taxpayers accounts. The coincidence with the payment happened because two different negotiators.
House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement just before the White House briefing saying that a $400 million cash transfer to Iran would confirm “our longstanding suspicion that the administration paid a ransom in exchange for Americans unjustly detained in Iran.”
The most of the money as Earnest said go for the repairing of the Iran’s economy, weakened by the years of sanctions, but the White House press secretary also said it is possible that Iran could use that money for Hezbollah support and Bashar-al-Assad’s regime in Syria.