By MICHELLE MARCHANTE
Thursday, Aug. 18 the State Department admitted that the $400 million cash payment made to Iran was ransom for the four American hostages, yet President Barack Obama continues to deny it.
During a daily press briefing, John Kirby admitted that the cash payment to Iran, which the government had originally said was meant to settle an old “outstanding claim” they had, was in fact used as leverage to ensure the freedom of the American prisoners.
“[W]hen you’re inside that 24-hour period and you already now have concerns about the endgame in terms of getting your Americans out, it would have been foolish, imprudent, irresponsible, for us not to try to maintain maximum leverage,” Kirby said in the briefing. “So if you’re asking me was there a connection in that regard at the endgame, I’m not going to deny that.”
This admittance comes after the Wall Street Journal discovered that a U.S. cargo plane carrying $400 million in currency flew into Tehran the same time that the American prisoners were scheduled for release, a fact that the government never made known to the public. When originally questioned by the WSJ, Kirby claimed that the negotiations were “completely separate from the discussions about returning our American citizens home.”
Yet during the briefing, Kirby said that the U.S. didn’t give Iran the 400 million until the American prisoners were released.
As reporters mentioned throughout the briefing, when the transaction originally occurred, Kirby was asked if what the government had done was a quid pro quo (getting something or having something done for you in return for something that you have given or have done for someone else) and he denied it, claiming that the two incidents weren’t related, yet now he has said that there is an undeniable link between the payment and the releases, leaving many to connect the dots and call it ransom.
This incident- to Kirby and Obama- is “old news” and they’re unsure as to why the media has covered it so much now to the point that it has made people suspicious of the U.S.’s negotiation with Iran.
Two weeks before Kirby’s briefing on Thursday, President Obama even went so far as to hold a press conference on Aug. 4 to reinforce the fact that the U.S. did not pay ransom and that the government did not do a “nefarious deal.”
“We do not pay ransom. We didn’t here and we won’t in the future,” Obama, according to the NY Post, said to reporters during the conference.
“[W]e announced those payments in January, many months ago,” he said. “There wasn’t a secret…[Press secretary Josh Earnest] did a briefing on them…we were completely open with everybody about it and it is interesting to me how suddenly this became a story again.”
The information Kirby provided on Thursday’s briefing, on the other hand, says otherwise. The payment, according to Kirby, was contingent to the release of the prisoners and was never said until now.
“[T]his happened in January and this is the first time you’ve ever said flat out that they wouldn’t get the money until the prisoners were released,” a reporter by the name of Brad said during the briefing. “That took…seven months? Why all the beating around the bush if it was such a great and noble decision?”
According to Kirby, while he agrees that this “particular fact is not something that we’ve talked about in the past” he claims that if you go back and “look at the press coverage…nobody made any bones about the fact that these two process[es] were coming together at the same time” and that the U.S. government took full advantage of the opportunity they found to get “our Americans back.”
While it was publicly known that the U.S. was in the process of solving a settlement with Iran, President Obama never disclosed the $400 million cash payment when he spoke about resolving the longtime claim on Jan. 17 and it was not publicly announced that both the settlement and the release had occurred at the same time.
By originally hiding this fact from the public and then denying that the payment and hostages were linked, the Obama administration-according to critics- have damaged their credibility now that the media has forced them to reveal the truth.
“I think most of the world believes it is a ransom payment,” Rep. Ted Yoho said to CNN.
“And the Obama administration, they lost credibility,” he said. “They drew a red line and said they didn’t [pay ransom]. It is recorded. CNN has tapes of it. Every major network does…It looks fishy.”
Michelle Marchante is a guest contributor for The Buzz Insider and the Assistant Opinion Director at FIUSM. She is a writer, reader and filmmaking enthusiast. Currently, she is studying to get her degree in Broadcast Journalism and is also working on her second novel. Connect with her on Twitter @TweetMichelleM
Featured image courtesy of the State Department.