State Department: $400 million cash payment to Iran was contingent on US prisoner release

Amir Toumaj
18th August 2016 - Quoted by Natasha Bertrand - Business Insider

The State Department says that a $400 million cash payment to Iran was contingent on the release of American prisoners.

Spokesman John Kirby says that negotiations over the US's returning Iranian money from a decades-old account was conducted separately from a prisoner swap in January, in which seven Iranians detained in the US were exchanged for Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and three other Iranian-American prisoners.

But Kirby acknowledged for the first time that the US withheld delivery of the cash as leverage until the US citizens had left Iran.


"There are arguments by some analysts that downplay the transfer as a ransom payment because this was money owed to Iran in principle and interest," Amir Toumaj, an Iran expert at the Washington, DC-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider earlier this month.

"But we wouldn't be having this discussion if the Islamic Republic were a government that abided by international norms and did not arbitrarily hold hostages as bargaining chips," he said.

"The administration announced the transfer of the $1.7 billion, of which the $400 million is the first installment, in January," Toumaj said.

"Still, the timing of this first installment is suspicious," he added. "And it's difficult to imagine that the prisoner swap and money transfer were not part of a quid pro quo arrangement."


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hostage-payment, iran