Archive for the ‘Iran – ransom payments’ category

Obama Gave Iran Money that Belonged to Iran’s Terror Victims

November 3, 2016

Obama Gave Iran Money that Belonged to Iran’s Terror Victims, Counter Jihad, November 2, 2016

iranmoney

Once again, it seems as if neither the law nor the American interest are of great concern to this administration.  When Iran is involved, at least, both the law and our national interests are always set aside.

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Here at CounterJihad, we have covered the transfer by the Obama administration of $1.7 billion in giant pallets of cash to the terrorist elements within Iran’s government.  None of the administration’s stories justifying this transfer of wealth to the main state sponsor of terrorism have made sense.  It was not necessary to transfer the money in cash, for example.  The transfer really was a hostage ransom payment, in spite of their denials, to take a second example.

Today, we learned that another aspect of their justification was flawed.  The Obama administration has claimed that the money transferred to Iran belonged to Iran anyway, as a kind of refund for weapons sales that did not happen.  This was always a highly questionable claim, as the government that paid us the money was not the same government that now rules over Iran.  It is unclear why the Iranian revolutionary government would be entitled to moneys advanced by the Shah of Iran.  This makes no more sense than if a homeowner had overpaid property taxes, and the government responded by sending the overpaid money not to him but to the squatters who had forcibly occupied his home over his protest.  Of course, the Shah was no longer in a position to receive a refund, so it wasn’t clear that the money should go to anyone.

What we have learned most recently, however, is that the money did have a proper owner:  victims of Iran’s support of terror.

Alisa Flatow, a twenty-year-old Brandeis University honors student spending her junior year abroad in Israel, boarded a bus in Jerusalem bound for a popular resort area in Gaza. It was the height of the “peace process,” celebrated the year before with Nobel Peace prizes. As the bus entered Gaza, a van filled with explosives slammed into it. Eight people, including Alisa, were killed, and more than 40 others were injured. The attack was carried out by a faction of Islamic Jihad controlled, financed, and directed by the highest levels of Iran’s government….  A federal district court issued a 35-page opinion, Flatow v. Islamic Republic of Iran (1998), awarding a total of $20 million in compensatory damages as well as punitive damages, with both types of damages specifically authorized by the U.S. Congress….

In all, sixteen cases were decided against Iran by courts in the United States between 1998 and 2004, with awards of compensatory damages totaling some $400 million and punitive damages totaling $3.5 billion.

Of course, the problem faced by each victorious plaintiff was collecting the judgment. Stephen Flatow, after unsuccessfully seeking to have the damages paid out of various Iranian assets held in the United States, learned of the $400 million in the FMS fund. The Clinton administration had supported the legislation that allowed suits such as Flatow’s, but then strenuously opposed any effort to have the judgments satisfied from that fund.

In other words, the money was spoken for before the Obama administration elected to transfer it to the IRGC.  It belonged, by the authorization of Congress and the decision of Federal courts, to victims of terrorism sponsored by the Iranian government.  Iran owes them all that money, and a great deal more.

The Obama administration has not rethought its position on sending Iran more and more money, whatever the law may say.  The State Department been busy recently trying to drum up investment for Iran instead.  Secretary of State John F. Kerry has been telling unlikely stories about the sanctions still in place on Iran in order to try to convince bankers to send Iran even more cash.  On this question, it should be noted by anyone thinking of investing, the State Department and the Treasury are very much at odds.

Once again, it seems as if neither the law nor the American interest are of great concern to this administration.  When Iran is involved, at least, both the law and our national interests are always set aside.

Congress: Attorney General Lynch ‘Pleads Fifth’ on Secret Iran ‘Ransom’ Payments

October 28, 2016

Congress: Attorney General Lynch ‘Pleads Fifth’ on Secret Iran ‘Ransom’ Payments, Washington Free Beacon, October 28, 2016

US attorney general, Loretta E. Lynch attends a conference on organised crime in Rome, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

US attorney general, Loretta E. Lynch, AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Attorney General Loretta Lynch is declining to comply with an investigation by leading members of Congress about the Obama administration’s secret efforts to send Iran $1.7 billion in cash earlier this year, prompting accusations that Lynch has “pleaded the Fifth” Amendment to avoid incriminating herself over these payments, according to lawmakers and communications exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) initially presented Lynch in October with a series of questions about how the cash payment to Iran was approved and delivered.

In an Oct. 24 response, Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik responded on Lynch’s behalf, refusing to answer the questions and informing the lawmakers that they are barred from publicly disclosing any details about the cash payment, which was bound up in a ransom deal aimed at freeing several American hostages from Iran.

The response from the attorney general’s office is “unacceptable” and provides evidence that Lynch has chosen to “essentially plead the fifth and refuse to respond to inquiries regarding [her] role in providing cash to the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism,” Rubio and Pompeo wrote on Friday in a follow-up letter to Lynch, according to a copy obtained by the Free Beacon.

The inquiry launched by the lawmakers is just one of several concurrent ongoing congressional probes aimed at unearthing a full accounting of the administration’s secret negotiations with Iran.

“It is frankly unacceptable that your department refuses to answer straightforward questions from the people’s elected representatives in Congress about an important national security issue,” the lawmakers wrote. “Your staff failed to address any of our questions, and instead provided a copy of public testimony and a lecture about the sensitivity of information associated with this issue.”

“As the United States’ chief law enforcement officer, it is outrageous that you would essentially plead the fifth and refuse to respond to inquiries,” they stated. “The actions of your department come at time when Iran continues to hold Americans hostage and unjustly sentence them to prison.”

The lawmakers included a copy of their previous 13 questions and are requesting that Lynch provide answers by Nov. 4.

When asked about Lynch’s efforts to avoid answering questions about the cash payment, Pompeo told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration has blocked Congress at every turn as lawmakers attempt to investigate the payments to Iran.

“Who knew that simple questions regarding Attorney General Lynch’s approval of billions of dollars in payments to Iran could be so controversial that she would refuse to answer them?” Pompeo said. “This has become the Obama administration’s coping mechanism for anything related to the Islamic Republic of Iran—hide information, obfuscate details, and deny answers to Congress and the American people.”

“They know this isn’t a sustainable strategy, however, and I trust they will start to take their professional, and moral, obligations seriously,” the lawmaker added.

In the Oct. 24 letter to Rubio and Pompeo, Assistant Attorney General Kadzik warned the lawmakers against disclosing to the public any information about the cash payment.

Details about the deal are unclassified, but are being kept under lock and key in a secure facility on Capitol Hill, the Free Beacon first disclosed. Lawmakers and staffers who have clearance to view the documents are forced to relinquish their cellular devices and are barred from taking any notes about what they see.

“Please note that these documents contain sensitive information that is not appropriate for public release,” Kadzik wrote to the lawmakers. “Disclosure of this information beyond members of the House and Senate and staff who are able to view them could adversely affect the diplomatic relations of the United States, including with key allies, as well as the State Department’s ability to defend [legal] claims against the United States [by Iran] that are still being litigated at the Hague Tribunal.”

“The public release of any portion of these documents, or the information contained therein, is not authorized by the transmittal of these documents or by this communication,” Kadzik wrote.

Congressional sources have told the Free Beacon that this is another part of the effort to hide details about these secret negotiations with Iran from the American public.

One senior congressional source familiar with both the secret documents and the inquiry into them told the Free Beacon that the details of the negotiations are so damning that the administration’s best strategy is to ignore lawmakers’ requests for more information.

“Every Obama administration official and department involved in the Iran Deal appear to be running for cover,” the source said. “Like we feared, the [Iran deal] is turning out to be a disaster and Iran is emboldened in its aggression. Evidently Attorney General Lynch and the Department of Justice have decided ‘refusal to cooperate’ is their best strategy. But this is dangerous and ultimately won’t protect them from anything.”

Update: The headline has been updated to more accurately characterize the story.

Iran Seeking ‘Many Billions of Dollars’ in Ransom to Free U.S. Hostages

October 19, 2016

Iran Seeking ‘Many Billions of Dollars’ in Ransom to Free U.S. Hostages, Washington Free Beacon, , October 19, 2016

(Again. — DM)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference on the second anniversary of his election, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 13, 2015. Rouhani said a final nuclear deal is "within reach" as Iran and world powers face a June 30 deadline for an agreement. Rouhani said Iran will allow inspections of its nuclear facilities but vowed that the Islamic republic won't allow its state "secrets" to be jeopardized under the cover of international inspections. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference on the second anniversary of his election, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 13, 2015.  (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran experts who spoke to the Free Beacon said that Iran senses weakness in the United States and is angling to squeeze more money from the administration before it leaves office.

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Iran is seeking “many billions of dollars” in payments from the United States in exchange for the release of several U.S. hostages still being detained in Iran, according to reports by Iran’s state-controlled press that are reigniting debate over the Obama administration’s decision earlier this year to pay Iran $1.7 billion in cash.

Senior Iranian officials, including the country’s president, have been floating the possibility of further payments from the United States for months. Since the White House agreed to pay Tehran $1.7 billion in cash earlier this year as part of a deal bound up in the release of American hostages, Iran has captured several more U.S. citizens.

Future payments to Iran could reach as much as $2 billion, according to sources familiar with the matter, who said that Iran is detaining U.S. citizens in Iran’s notorious Evin prison where inmates are routinely tortured and abused.

Iranian news sources close to the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which has been handling prisoner swaps with the United States, reported on Tuesday that Iran expects “many billions of dollars to release” those U.S. citizens still being detained.”

“We should wait and see, the U.S. will offer … many billions of dollars to release” American businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, who was abducted by Iran after the United States paid Iran the $1.7 billion, according to the country’s Mashregh News outlet, which has close ties to the IRGC’s intelligence apparatus.

The Persian language news report was independently translated for the Washington Free Beacon.

Six hostages have been sentenced to 10 years in prison by Iran in the past months, including the Namazis.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told NBC News in late September that his government is in talks with the United States to secure future payouts, a disclosure that may have played a role in the White House’s recent decision to veto legislation to block future ransom payments to Iran.

“We’re currently conducting conversations and various dialogues in order to return this money to Iran,” Rouhani was quoted as saying. “Perhaps these dialogues can be still conducted simultaneously on parallel tracks while we’re conducting those same conversations in order to free the sums of money that are still owed to us.”

One senior congressional adviser familiar with the issue told the Free Beacon that Iranian officials have been pressing for another $2 billion from the United States for months.

“Iranian officials including Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad] Zarif have been bragging for months that they’re going to force the U.S. to pay them several billion dollars more,” the source said. “Now officials across the spectrum in Iran—from IRGC hardliners to the ostensibly moderate President Rouhani—are talking about those billions, and maybe several more, alongside chatter about the U.S. hostages.”

“Even some family members of the hostages talk that way, which is completely understandable given what they’re going through, but it doesn’t change the fact that the administration is gearing up to give Iran another ransom in the hundreds of millions and maybe again billions,” the source added.

Rumors of future ransom payments to Iran come as Congress continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the $1.7 billion cash payment, a portion of which was delivered by plane to Iran just hours before it released several U.S. prisoners.

The Free Beacon recently disclosed that details of this payment and other details bound up in the hostage release are being stored in a highly secure location on Capitol Hill, preventing many from accessing the documents, which are not classified but are being treated as such.

The three documents show that the cash payment was directly tied to the prisoner release, adding fuel to claims of a ransom payment, according to sources who have viewed them.

Iran experts who spoke to the Free Beacon said that Iran senses weakness in the United States and is angling to squeeze more money from the administration before it leaves office.

“Paying $1.7 billion to Iran to release the U.S. prisoners has encouraged Iran to arrest more Americans,” said Saeed Ghasseminejad, an associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Iran senses weakness in the U.S. leadership as it constantly tests the administration through a chain of provocative actions. To put an end to Iran’s abduction program, the administration should make it clear, by action and not words, that it does not reward Iran for its bad behavior.”

Conceding to Iran’s demands will only bolster the hardline regime, Ghasseminejad said.

“The administration must show strength in response to Iran’s other provocative actions in the region,” he said. “The administration also should warn American citizens and green card holders that Iran is a very dangerous place for them to travel or do business. However, such warning contradicts the administration’s continuous efforts to encourage investors and big banks to do business with Iran. The administration also should impose sanction on the entities and individuals involved in this abduction program.”

Obama Admin Secretly Facilitated Iranian Ballistic Missile Program

October 4, 2016

Obama Admin Secretly Facilitated Iranian Ballistic Missile Program, Washington Free Beacon, , October 4, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry smiles during a speech on the future of "Transatlantic Relations" during an event hosted by The German Marshall Fund (GMF) and the U.S. Mission to the EU at Concert Noble in Brussels, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Kerry is in Brussels for a two-day conference, hosted by the EU, with the participation of over 70 countries to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry smiles during a speech on the future of “Transatlantic Relations” during an event hosted by The German Marshall Fund (GMF) and the U.S. Mission to the EU at Concert Noble in Brussels, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

The Obama administration misled journalists and lawmakers for more than nine months about a secret agreement to lift international sanctions on a critical funding node of Iran’s ballistic missile program, as part of a broader “ransom” package earlier this year that involved Iran freeing several U.S. hostages, according to U.S. officials and congressional sources apprised of the situation.

The administration agreed to immediately lift global restrictions on Iran’s Bank Sepah—a bank the Treasury Department described in 2007 as the “linchpin of Iran’s missile procurement”–eight years before they were to be lifted under last summer’s comprehensive nuclear agreement. U.S. officials initially described the move as a “goodwill gesture” to Iran.

The United States also agreed to provide Iran $1.7 billion in cash to release or drop charges against 21 Iranians indicted for illegally assisting Tehran. Full details of this secret agreement were kept hidden from Congress and journalists for more than nine months, multiple sources told theWashington Free Beacon.

State Department officials who spoke to the Free Beacon now say the United States “already made” the decision to drop U.S. sanctions, but declined to address multiple questions aimed at clarifying the discrepancy between past and current explanations for dropping international sanctions.

The Free Beacon first reported on these terms in January, including the dropping of international sanctions on Bank Sepah.

State Department officials told the Free Beacon at the time that the settlement with Iran, including the $1.7 billion cash award, was “not related” to “the release of the U.S. citizens from Iran.”

U.S. officials last week confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that in fact the dropping of sanctions on Bank Sepah “was part of a package of tightly scripted agreements” surrounding the release of the U.S. citizens from Iran.

When asked about the discrepancies between these statements, a State Department official would not elaborate, instead telling the Free Beacon, “The U.S. government had already made the determination that it would remove Bank Sepah from our domestic Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List on Implementation Day, which was outlined clearly in the JCPOA [nuclear deal] itself in July 2015.”

“We made this determination after a careful review of the activity of all individuals and entities—including Bank Sepah—that would be removed from the SDN list,” the official explained. “Although we removed Bank Sepah from the U.S. SDN list, Bank Sepah will continue to be cut off from the U.S. financial system and its funds under U.S. jurisdiction will remain blocked. Furthermore, we have the ability to quickly reimpose additional U.S. sanctions if Bank Sepah or any other entity engages in activities that remain sanctionable.”

The Free Beacon was not the only publication that was provided with misleading information by the Obama administration.

U.S. officials told Al Monitor in late January that the move to cancel international sanctions on Bank Sepah at the United Nations was undertaken by Venezuela without U.S. action.

“We already made the decision to delist this bank as part of U.S. secondary sanctions as part of the nuclear deal,” the official added, claiming the United States only agreed “not to oppose the delisting at the U.N., which Iran very much wanted.”

Senior Iranian officials said in January that the $1.7 billion payment and delisting of Bank Sepah were part of the agreement to free U.S. hostages, a charge the Obama administration denied at the time.

“The annulment of sanctions against Iran’s Bank Sepah and reclaiming of $1.7mln of Iran’s frozen assets after 36 years showed that the U.S. doesn’t understand anything but the language of force,” Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of Iran’s Basij Volunteer Force, told Iran’s state-controlled press in early February.

Senior congressional sources apprised of the matter told the Free Beacon that these latest revelations provide further proof of the administration’s intentional bid to deceive the public about its dealings with Iran.

“Facts are facts, no matter how much the administration tries to hide them,” said one senior congressional aide involved in investigating the matter. “Journalists and Members of Congress are on the trail and have already uncovered so much, including the cash payment of almost $2 billion to the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism as a ransom for four American hostages. The truth, no matter how disturbing it is, will continue to come out.”

“This should eliminate any remaining doubt that the administration paid a ransom to Iran,” said another source familiar with the issue. “Why else would they keep Congress and the American people in the dark about this unprecedented concession? President Obama’s continued capitulation to the Iranian regime is a hazard to our national security.”

Another source who serves as a senior adviser to Congress and is familiar with the administration’s thinking told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration misled the public to avoid sparking outrage over its decision to drop sanctions on the top funder of Iran’s ballistic missile program.

“The Obama administration couldn’t tell the American public that it had just unleashed Iran’s ballistic missile program as one part of an enormous ransom extracted by Iran,” the source said. “So instead they ran to friendly reporters to misleadingly boast about how successful their diplomacy was, while they were bribing Iran with billions of dollars and military concessions to stay at the table.”

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, described the administration’s move as putting Iran’s ballistic missile program “back in business.”

“It represents a unilateral dismantling of the international ballistic missile embargo against the Islamic Republic,” FDD wrote in a recent policy analysis. “Iran’s preferred missile-financing bank is back in business.”

Iran has test fired multiple ballistic missiles since the nuclear deal was implemented, despite international restrictions on this type of activity.

Another Day, Another Secret Obama Side Deal with Iran

September 30, 2016

Another Day, Another Secret Obama Side Deal with Iran, Center for Security Policy, September 30, 2016

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Source: National Review

According to a September 30 Wall Street Journal article, the Obama administration signed a secret agreement with Iran to lift U.N. sanctions from two Iranian banks — Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International — that helped finance Iran’s ballistic-missile program. U.S. and Iranian officials signed this deal on January 17, 2016, the same day Iran released four U.S. prisoners.

U.S officials in January said the prisoners were swapped for the release of seven Iranian prisoners by the U.S. and the removal of 21 persons — mostly Iranian nationals — from an INTERPOL wanted list for violating U.S. laws barring transfers of WMD technology and weapons to Iran.

The American people and Congress did not learn until August that the U.S. prisoners were not allowed to leave Iran until a planeload of $400 million in cash sent by the United States had landed in Iran. This payment — and two more over the next month — has been strongly condemned by Republican congressmen as U.S. ransom payments to a state sponsor of terror.

Commenting on the $400 million cash payment to Iran, the prisoner swap and the lifting of sanctions from the Iranian banks, a senior U.S. official told the Journal, “The timing of all this isn’t coincidental. Everything was linked to some degree.”

The Journal also quoted unnamed Obama officials who justified lifting sanctions against the two Iranian banks to “harmonize the U.N. sanctions list with the U.S.’s” and because “Washington believed Iran had earned more sanctions relief because Tehran had been implementing the terms of the nuclear agreement.” The Obama administration lifted U.S. sanctions against Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International in July 2015. The U.N. Security Council voted to lift these sanctions on January 17, 2016.

This suggests the removal of sanctions against the Iranian banks was part of a broad ransom agreement to free U.S. prisoners held by Iran.

The secret agreement to lift sanctions against the Iranian banks also violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, passed in July 2015 which endorsed the JCPOA. This resolution stipulated that U.N. missile-related sanctions against Iran would remain in place for eight years. In addition, lifting sanctions against the two banks broke promises to Congress by Obama officials that the nuclear deal would only lift nuclear-related sanctions against Iran and that U.N. missile sanctions would remain in place for eight years.

The secret deal to lift missile sanctions against the Iranian banks joins a long list of secret JCPOA side deals that the Obama administration illegally withheld from the U.S. Congress and the American people. These include allowing Iran to inspect itself for nuclear weapons work; the dumbing down of IAEA Iran reports; exemptions granted to Iran on its JCPOA obligations so it would receive $150 billion in sanctions relief; sending Iran planeloads of $1.7 billion in cash to free four imprisoned Americans; and an agreement allowing Iran to construct advanced centrifuges in 2027. One has to wonder how many more secret side deals have yet to be disclosed.

I argue in my new book on the Obama administration’s nuclear diplomacy with Iran is national-security fraud. This latest secret side deal is more compelling evidence of this.

Obama Admin Seeks Pathway for Future ‘Ransom Payments’ to Iran

September 22, 2016

Obama Admin Seeks Pathway for Future ‘Ransom Payments’ to Iran, Washington Free Beacon, September 21, 2016

US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the United Nations Security Council during an open, high-level debate regarding the ongoing Syrian crisis, at UN Headquarters in New York, NY, USA on September 21, 2016. The meeting, presided over by New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, comes amid growing hostility between the United States and Russia over allegations of military operations conducted in the region. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones) *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***

US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the United Nations Security Council during an open, high-level debate regarding the ongoing Syrian crisis, at UN Headquarters in New York, NY, USA on September 21, 2016. (Credit Field)

The Obama administration is pushing a pathway to ensure it can continue sending Iran cash payments amid mounting accusations it laundered some $1.7 billion to the Islamic Republic as part of a “ransom payment” to free U.S. hostages earlier this year, according to statements by the White House and sources familiar with the matter.

The White House late Wednesday promised to veto new legislation—first disclosed by theWashington Free Beacon—that would bar the administration from making “future ransom payments to Iran,” prompting outrage from key members of Congress who have been investigating how U.S. officials delivered nearly $2 billion in cash to Iranian officials.

The administration’s veto threat comes as top lawmakers on a range of investigatory committees launch efforts to uncover details about the cash exchange still being hidden by the Obama administration.

Congressional sources who spoke to the Free Beacon raised questions as to why the Obama administration would threaten to veto the bill, given its insistence that the cash payments to Iran were not part of a ransom.

“President Obama’s veto threat on our ransom legislation puts the lives of U.S. citizens around the world at risk,” Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who helped spearhead the ransom legislation, told the Free Beacon.

“Instead of admitting wrongdoing, this administration is sticking to talking points. But selective noun use cannot explain away criminality, nor does it excuse eight months of lying to the American people,” Pompeo said. “It is unprecedented and reckless for the U.S. to be doling out billions to the Islamic Republic of Iran—under wraps and in cash—which is why our bill is necessary.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), a lead sponsor of the legislation to ban future payments to Iran, told theFree Beacon that he would continue to push the legislation, despite threats by the administration.

“This effort by the President to defend his ransom payments to Iran at all costs amounts to doubling down on ‎a policy that has made Americans less safe,” Rubio told the Free Beacon. “Democrats may be swayed by this threat, but I will continue to fight to prevent the U.S. government from sending taxpayer dollars to the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism.”

Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) told the Free Beacon Wednesday evening that the Obama administration is betraying U.S. victims of Iranian terrorism, who are owed billions under federal court rulings.

“Under U.S. court judgments, Iran owes $55.6 billion to American victims of Iranian terrorism,” Kirk told the Free Beacon. “The Administration should stop finding ways to send more cash to Iran, and start working to bring a measure of justice to American families whose loved ones were killed or injured due to Iran-backed terrorists.”

One source familiar with the matter said Iran prefers cash because it can more easily be used to fund terrorism.

“There is no credible reason for the administration to oppose this bill. We already know, contrary to what the president initially said, that the administration can in fact wire money to Iran,” the source said. “So why do we need the option to pay in cash? Simple. This money can fund terrorism, and there’s nothing we can do to know of stop it.”

The Obama administration maintains the legislation is “ill-advised” and would “undermine U.S. obligations” to Iran.

The bill is “an ill-advised attempt to respond to a problem—so-called ‘ransom’ payments to Iran—that does not exist, in a way that would undermine U.S. obligations and ultimately benefit Iran at the expense of the United States,” the White House said in a statement.

The administration said it plans to award Iran further payments, which would not be possible under the ransom legislation.

“This bill, while styled as prohibiting future purported ‘ransom payments,’ instead bars virtually any payment from the U.S. government to Iran, including those permitted or even required by law,” the administration said.

The $1.7 billion cash payment was given to Iran as part of an effort to resolve decades-old legal disputes, many of which are still outstanding. The administration said further payments could be made to Iran in order to settle these disputes.

“Specifically, this bill would effectively prevent the United States from paying out awards rendered by the Tribunal and, thus, risk putting the United States in violation of our obligations under the Algiers Accords—an agreement concluded by President Carter, endorsed by President Reagan and honored by every President since that time,” according to the White House.

Questions remain about why the administration chose to pay Iran in cash installments routed through the New York Federal Reserve and several European banks.

Lawmakers such as Pompeo and Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) have described the administration’s process as tantamount to a money laundering scheme.

UPDATE 8:40 P.M.: This piece was updated to include comments from Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Mark Kirk (R., Ill.).

Obama Admin: Iran Was Only Paid $1.7 Billion in Cash After Hostages Released

September 8, 2016

Obama Admin: Iran Was Only Paid $1.7 Billion in Cash After Hostages Released, Washington Free Beacon, Adam Kredo, September 8, 2016

Assan Rouhani, The President of Iran during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 25, 2015 in New York City. Photo by Dennis Van Tine/Sipa USA

Hassan Rouhani. Photo by Dennis Van Tine/Sipa USA

Senior Obama administration officials, under the threat of a subpoena, were forced to appear on Capitol Hill on Thursday to explain why lawmakers and the American public were kept in the dark about a $1.7 billion cash payment to Iran that has been widely viewed as a ransom to free imprisoned U.S. hostages.

Four senior administration officials declined to provide in-depth explanations of how U.S. funds were transferred to Iran, but said that at least $1.3 billion was withdrawn from a U.S. taxpayer fund and sent to Iran only after it released the hostages.

The payments to Iran were made in hard currency after the United States delivered the funds to European banks. The money was converted into hard currency and bank notes before being transferred to an official from the Central Bank of Iran for transport to Tehran, according to the officials.

Administration officials confirmed that the $1.7 billion payment only went through once the United States was able to secure the release of several U.S. hostages being held in Iran—though the officials would not say this amounted to a ransom.

The Obama administration also could not guarantee lawmakers that the money would not be spent by Iran to fund terror operations.

These disclosures appear to confirm key details about the payment that the administration had either denied or declined to elaborate on for months.

Details are only becoming public now following several news reports and leaks from Congress about the source of the payment, which has been shrouded in mystery since January, when it was first announced.

“This committee requested records … more than a month ago and to date the self-proclaimed most transparent administration in our history has failed to provide any, not one document to this committee,” said Rep. Sean Duffy (R., Wis.), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, during the hearing.

“The witnesses today only agreed under threat of subpoena” to appear before Congress, Duffy said.

The testimony by these administration officials is likely to fuel claims that the payment amounted to a ransom, following the admission that the administration only went through with the cash delivery after it was able to confirm that the U.S. hostages had left Iran.

“You can’t tell me that you guaranteed our prisoners would have been released had your money not been sent,” Duffy said to Christopher Backemeyer, a deputy assistant secretary for Iranian affairs at the State Department.

Backemeyer also could not provide a guarantee that the money would not be spent by Iran on terrorist operations.

“I can’t speak to every dollar that’s going to go in or out of Iran,” he said.

“There is a risk you have taken in providing $1.7 billion to the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” Duffy said.

European officials handed off the first payment of $400 million in cash to Iran on Jan. 17, only after Iran agreed to release the U.S. hostages following an evening of negotiations that included Secretary of State John Kerry, officials said.

After converting the U.S. funds to European bank notes and cash, the money was given to an “official from the Central Bank of Iran for transfer to Tehran,” according to Paul Ahern, assistant general counsel for enforcement and intelligence at the Treasury Department. “The funds were under U.S. government control until their disbursement.”

The remaining $1.3 billion was withdrawn from a U.S. taxpayer fund operated by the Treasury Department and sent to Europe. Once there, the money was converted into foreign currency and transferred to a representative of Iran’s central bank on Jan. 22 and Feb. 5.

Information about the payment and the circumstances surrounding it remains a mystery.

The administration officials  made the decision to pay Iran in cash, even though other options existed.

“Iran had to have it in cash,” Ahren said. “Iran was very aware of the difficulties it would face in accessing and using the funds if they were in any other form than cash, even after the lifting of sanctions.”

A cash delivery “was the most reliable way that they received the funds in a timely manner and it was the manner preferred by the relative foreign banks,” Ahren said.

“For them,” Backemeyer added, “the critical need was they [Iran] got immediate access.”

The administration officials would not provide in-depth details, citing diplomatic sensitivities.

“My guess is, if any private citizen had done what this administration did, they’d be indicted on money laundering and the administration calls in diplomacy,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), who questioned why the deal was hidden from the public

“Why did the administration go to such great lengths to hide it from the American people?” Hensarling asked. “Why did I have to threaten subpoenas to get the administration to show up in the first place?”

The State Department’s Backemeyer explained that some details could only be divulged in a classified setting.

“There will be limitations to what I and my colleagues can say in an open setting,” he explained. “There are a number of litigations and diplomatic sensitivities that could jeopardize U.S. interests if we were to go into too much detail.”

When asked why the United states agreed to pay $1.3 billion in interest to Iran from a taxpayer fund, a State Department official bristled.

“The details of why we settled for this amount are litigation sensitive,” said Lisa Grosh, a legal adviser in the State Department’s office of international claims and investment disputes. “Iran’s lawyers would try to use my words or maybe even your words against us to help their position at the [claims] tribunal. I believe this settlement was the best thing for the United States.”