US officials confirmed Wednesday they have secretly arranged a plane delivery of $400 million in cash on the same day Iran released four American prisoners detained by Tehran. A fifth American man was released by Iran separately. The Obama administration also stressed that money was not ransom as some Republicans have charged.
The five hostages were released on January 16 in exchange for seven Iranians held in the United States for sanctions violations. The prisoner deal coincided with the lifting of international sanctions against Tehran.
In other turn, cash was prepared for settling a longstanding Iranian claim at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in The Hague. Barack Obama approved the $400 million transfer, which he had announced in January as part of the Iran nuclear deal. The money was flown into Iran on wooden pallets stacked with Swiss francs, euros and other currencies as the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement resolving claims at an international tribunal at The Hague over a failed arms deal under the time of the Shah.
Such a deal met a lot of criticism from Republicans. They have long opposed the Iran nuclear deal, and seized on how the money was paid to Iran as a way to undermine the deal.
"Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk," said Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk. "While Americans were relieved by Iran's overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House's policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi and Reza Shahini."
"We paid $400 million for the hostages," Donald Trump said. "Such a bad precedent was set by Obama. We have two more hostages there right? What's are we going to pay for them? What we're doing is insane."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest rejected suggestions the money transfer to Iran was ransom or a secret.
"The United States, under President Obama, has not paid a ransom to secure the release of Americans unjustly detained in Iran and we're not going to pay a ransom," he said in response to a Wall Street Journal article that said Washington secretly organized the cash airlift.