Editor’s note: Article updated 12 May 2018 to reflect Trump’a abandonment of the Iran Nuclear deal putting the USA in violation of the agreement.
Bottom line is that the right is desperately trying to push this non-story about Iran for one simple reason. Trump is in self-destruct mode, and they really needed to change the news cycle. Now let’s look at the real deal about that $400 Million.
OK, so first of all let’s get some facts out of the way up front.
Yes it’s true that President Obama gave Iran $400 Million. But despite the fact that Trump and the Republicans want you to believe that this is some big new secret that they have uncovered, it’s not. This payment was made back in January 2016 and was widely reported at the time.
And it’s important to know that this money was absolutely NOT a ransom payment. The money was given to the Iranians because it was THEIR money. America made a deal back in 1979 with Iran which would give them weapons in exchange for $400 Million. But shortly after we made the deal in 1979 Iran took 52 American hostages from the Tehran US Embassy.
Because of that action the US cut off all diplomatic negotiations with Iran and we froze their assets. And part of those assets included the money that they had already given to us….even though we never delivered the fighter jets that Iran paid for.
In 1981 the hostages were released but the legal status of that $400 Million remained unresolved. So Iran brought their case to an international court. At that point we were faced with two options. We could negotiate with Iran and come to an agreement outside of court. Or we could fight this out in the international tribunal with 3 American judges, 3 Iranian judges, and 3 neutral party judges.
This process has obviously taken a very long time. But in Obama’s second term he looked at the situation and realized that if this case indeed was litigated in court we would lose. And losing would mean paying Billions of dollars to Iran in interest. Iran wanted $10 Billion. So Obama decided to negotiate outside of court and ended up striking a deal in January of 2016 to pay Iran $1.7 Billion. If you factor in inflation that amounts to about $300 Million in interest on top of the original $400 Million.
The $400 Million was paid as a first installment of the $1.7 Billion. And it was paid in foreign cash because it is illegal in our country for the government to give them American or Iranian dollars.
I realize that the Republicans are doing their best to blame every bad thing on Hillary Clinton. But it’s important to note that this deal with Iran happened in 2016 when Clinton was no longer the Secretary of State.
As for the claims that this payment was in exchange for the hostages that Iran recently took, this is again not supported by facts. In January when this payment was made we actually had 3 separate negotiations going on with Iran….the repayment of Iran’s money from 1979, the nuclear arms deal, and the negotiations to release the hostages.
All 3 of these negotiations were done by completely separate teams. The team that was working on the repayment of the $400 Million had been working on that deal for many years. And the 3 teams were not working together. The thing they all have in common is Iran. But there is no evidence of quid pro quo. The policy remains that the US does not pay for hostages.
Now here’s the thing…yes, these 3 negotiations did happen at about the same time. But the claim that it was payment for hostages just doesn’t pass the common sense test. We OWED that money to Iran. And no matter what happened with the other 2 negotiations we still had to pay them. Whether we went to court and were ordered to pay them the $10 Billion they wanted or we paid them the $1.7 Billion that was negotiated out of court, Iran was going to be paid back.
So if Iran agreed to negotiate the release of hostages why would they use for leverage money that they already were going to get? If we are to believe the money was payment for the hostages then that would make Iran the worst hostage takers ever.
Another thing that keeps coming up in the argument that we paid for hostages is that it must be true because the Iranian press said it was so. Really?? So now we’re going to believe spin that comes out of Iran of all places?? Regardless of when we paid them that $400 Million the Iranians would still say that it was for the hostages. They wanted to make America look weak and themselves look strong in front of their own nation so of course they would say something like that. But that doesn’t make it true.
And as for the separate nuclear deal from 2015, by all expert accounts Iran complied with the agreement, meaning that when Trump announced that he was scrapping the deal he put the good ole USA out of compliance. We are the ones violating the agreement now.
The right trying to spin the nuclear deal into something evil is more about attacking President Obama and his judgement than anything else.
Oh and Donald Trump’s claim that he saw a video of the Iranian money exchange is a flat out lie. The video is non-existent.
Bottom line is that the right is desperately trying to push this non-story for one simple reason. Their Presidential candidate is in self-destruct mode and they really needed to change the news cycle.
Check out this Vox video. It does a good job of explaining the nuclear deal.