Time: 11:35 p.m. CEST
President Barack Obama said on Thursday that $400 million paid to Iran in cash was not a ransom money given to Iran for the release of four American hostages held in the country. Obama answered to the question while offering an update of the anti-ISIL campaign in the Pentagon.
“We do not pay ransom. We did not did, and we would not do in the future, precisely that if we did, we would start encouraging Americans to be targeted, much in the same way some country do pay ransom end up having more of their citizens being taken by various groups,” Obama said.
As the President said, “the timing of this was in fact dictated by the consequence of us negotiating with Iran the Nuclear Deal, we actually had diplomatic conversations and negotiations with Iran for the first time in several decades.”
Commenting the story of the Wall Street Journal, Obama said, “It is not at all clear to me why cash as opposed to a check or a wire transfer made it into a news story.” Obama announced that because the lack of the banking relations with Iran and due the fact U.S. is strict in the sanctions, the payment to Iran was in cash. “We pay cash, the reason is that we are strict in sanctions and we cannot send the check or wire the money,” Obama said.
The President also said, $400 million was return of payment to Iran ordered by International Tribunal in the Hague and it was announced in January.
“We were completely open,” Obama said on Thursday during the his last birthday as president at the White House.
A day earlier, the White House denied 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.”