United States Sent $1.3 Billion More Cash to Iran After First Payment
After sending an initial $400 million in cash payments on a plane to Iran, the United States sent $1.3 billion more in two separate shipments within 19 days of the first payment.
According to congressional officials who were briefed by the U.S. State, Treasury and Justice departments, the payments settled a decades-old arms dispute that dates all the way back to 1979, the year of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the year that students in Tehran took over the American Embassy and held 52 hostages for 444 days.
The cash payments were made in Swiss Francs, Euros and other non-dollar currencies. U.S. officials have confirmed that the first $400 million was used as “leverage” in order to secure the release of four American prisoners, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.
Those prisoners were flown out of Mehrabad the morning of January 17th.
Cash Causes Controversy on Capitol Hill
Republicans have vowed to pursue charges that the White House paid ransom to Tehran, allegations that the Obama administration denies. Senator Marco Rubio introduced legislation on Tuesday to stop future payments and reclaim the nearly $2 billion for victims for Iranian terrorism.
The payments made their way through Europe and the initial payment was picked up in Geneva, Switzerland, according to officials. The $400 million was converted from dollars into Swiss Francs and other non-U.S. currencies by the Swiss and Dutch central banks, officials said.
“The form of those principal and interest payments—made in non-U.S. currency, in cash—was necessitated by the effectiveness of U.S. and international sanctions regimes over the last several years in isolating Iran from the international financial system,” Treasury spokeswoman Dawn Selak said.
Lawmakers have voiced concerns that the money will be used to finance Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the groups it supports, many of whom have been labeled as terror organizations.
Iran currently supports Hezbollah in Lebanon (who are fighting for Assad in Syria), Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are fighting the Saudis.
The original payment goes back to arbitration that had been in progress since the early 1980’s. The initial dispute rose from a payment made by the Shah of Iran to the United States for airplane parts, which were never delivered due to regime change in Tehran. The Obama administration claims that they were set to lose the case in the Hague and would be liable for over $10 billion in accrued interest.