The White House delivered a mysterious $1.7 billion cash payment to Iran in January, $400 million of which was delivered by cargo plane just hours before Tehran released four American prisoners.
The White House claims the payment was related to a failed, pre-1979 arms deal. As we wrote in a previous article, the payment was clearly a ransom.
Iran has captured at least six Americans since, including businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer. All hostages have been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“Paying $1.7 billion to Iran to release the US prisoners has encouraged Iran to arrest more Americans,” argues Saeed Ghasseminejad, a spokesman for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“Iran senses weakness in the US 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.”
Sources familiar with the situation worry that Iran is torturing its prisoners and estimate that future payments could reach as high as $2 billion.
Iran is now bragging about how much money they can milk from the US. As reported by Iran’s Mashregh News outlet: “We should wait and see, the US will offer…many billions of dollars to release” Baquer and Siamak Namazi.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told NBC in September that Tehran is in discussion with the US to secure future payments, a statement that might have played a role in President Obama’s recent decision to veto legislation that could have blocked future ransom payments.
“We’re currently conducting conversations and various dialogues in order to return this money to Iran,” said Rouhani. “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.”
Meanwhile, officials warn Americans to stay away from Iran.
“After airlifting $1.7 billion in cash ransom payments to Iran, even the US State Department now warns of increased dangers that the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism will continue to illegally seize Americans and Westerners who travel or do business with Iran,” says Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL). “Companies, banks, and American citizens would be wise to stay away from Iran.”
Senator Kirk is Chairman of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance, a group that oversees Iran sanctions policy.
“The administration should also warn American citizens and green card holders that Iran is a very dangerous place for them to travel or do business,” adds Ghasseminejad. “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.”
Meanwhile, Congress continues to investigate the $1.7 billion cash payment in order to prove that it was in fact a ransom.
Editor’s note: It’s amazing how this administration has not learned from the past. In every orientation class in the State Department and in every intelligence department, the first lesson is if you pay ransom, you create opportunities for the kidnappers to take more hostages.