So…it turns out the Obama administration paid a
ransom leverage payment to Iran for the release of the hostages.
First, let me clutch my pearls and rush to the fainting couch. Second, can I just say how embarrassed I feel for John Kirby? He has to go out in front of millions of viewers and tell an obvious and poorly constructed lie over and over again. That can’t be fun.
Two weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal broke some serious news: the same day Iran released three American hostages last January, an unmarked cargo plane delivered $400 million to the Middle Eastern nation.
After the WSJ story broke, President Obama unequivocally stated that the payment was not a ransom:
“We do not pay ransom for hostages. We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future, precisely because if we did we’d start encouraging Americans to be targeted.”
The cash payment, the administration said, was completely separate from the hostage negotiations. According to WSJ, “the U.S. owed the money to Iran as part of a longstanding dispute linked to a failed arms deal from the 1970s.”
This appears to be true in that there were indeed two distinct deals in motion at the same time–one for the hostages, and the other for the return of Iran’s money. That’s not in question. What is in question is whether or not the two deals became entangled along the way, and if the Obama administration lied about it. The answer to both questions seems to be a resounding yes.
The administration initially claimed that the peculiar timing of the hostage release and the cash payment was merely coincidence, but now they’ve “clarified,” saying that the delivery of the $400 million was dependent on the release of the hostages.
“U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17. Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash home from a Geneva airport that day.”
“One of the Americans released in January as part of the prisoner exchange, a pastor named Saeed Abedini, said he and other American prisoners were kept waiting at Mehrabad airport from Jan. 16 to the morning of Jan. 17. He said in an interview that he was told by a senior Iranian intelligence official at the time that their departure was contingent upon the movements of a second airplane.”
In other words, this was a ransom–but that’s not how they’re spinning it.
The following is a partial exchange between CNN’s Kate Bolduan and State Department spokesman John Kirby:
BOLDUAN: “That seems pretty close to the definition of ransom. How is it not?”
KIRBY: “Well, it’s not ransom for many reasons. First of all, this was Iran’s money; it was money that was awarded to them by the Hague tribunal…number two, I think the way ransom works is you have to pay first, and then you get your hostages back, and that’s not what happened here. We got our American citizens out first, and then–because we wanted to make sure we had the leverage to get them out safely–then the $400 million that was Iran’s was released to them…”
BOLDUAN: “To your point, if it wasn’t ransom…did it become a ransom payment when you feared–as you said–that the Americans wouldn’t be released if you let that money enter Iran?”
KIRBY: “No. Again, I think the way that ransom works is you pay first, and then you get your hostages. That didn’t happen…”
BOLDUAN: “…I think if you’re two people staring each other down, whoever steps first, it doesn’t really matter. The fact that it was exchanged–it was held and exchanged–and that’s how it had to happen for fear you weren’t going to get the results that you wanted to get, that sounds like ransom to a layman…”
— OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) August 18, 2016
It wasn’t ransom because they gave us our guys first. That’s what they’re going with.
Perhaps it wasn’t a textbook definition of ransom, but what Iran did is called extortion, and regardless of the order in which the exchange occurred, it will have a chilling effect. Iran can detain more Americans, and demand cash, goods, or other services for their freedom because they know the U.S. is good for it.
The Obama administration has demonstrated that they’re perfectly willing to be extorted by the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Through this exchange, the United States has displayed incredible weakness, and weakness is preyed upon. Anyone who doesn’t think that Iran–and every other enemy state or entity–will take that and run with it is an idiot.
We do not pay ransom for hostages. We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future, precisely because if we did we’d start encouraging Americans to be targeted.
But we’re very open to extortion.