An Iranian general made claims that recently released funds, a $400 million debt and $1.3 billion in interest, were ransom paid by the US for the release of four prisoners.
Fars News Agency reported that on Wednesday, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, a brigadier general in Iran’s Basij Force under the command of the Revolutionary Guards, addressed his troops, saying, “This money was returned for the freedom of the US spy and it was not related to the (nuclear) negotiations,” he announced, adding, “The annulment of sanctions against Iran’s Bank Sepah and reclaiming of $1.7 million of Iran’s frozen assets after 36 years showed that the US doesn’t understand anything but the language of force.”
The payment allegedly settled claims over money Iran paid to buy weapons from the United States but were never delivered to the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, because of the Iranian revolution in 1979. This claim, along with many others, is the focus of many ongoing lawsuits between the US and Iran.
US State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, dismissed these claims. “There was no bribe, there was no ransom, there was nothing paid to secure the return of these Americans who were, by the way, not spies. Even though it was concurrent, and I acknowledge that, it was done on its own merits. This was a very good deal for the American people that we believe saved us – saved the American taxpayer a lot of money. It was in no way a give-and-take or a – rather, a compensation for them to get the release of these Americans.”
US President Barack Obama also responded to criticism of the payout. “There was no benefit to the United States in dragging this out. With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well,” he said, explaining the benefit to the US taxpayers. “Iran will be returned its own funds, including appropriate interest, but much less than the amount Iran sought.”
Nonetheless, Republican lawmakers who object to the deal with Iran criticized this recent payout. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), appeared on Fox News Sunday, calling the deal “problematic,” saying it constituted “negotiating with terrorists.”
“I think it’s a very dangerous precedent,” Cruz said. “The result of this — every bad actor on earth has been told go capture an American. If you want terrorists out of the jail, capture an American, and President Obama is in the ‘let’s make a deal’ business.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), appeared on Face the Nation, taking the opportunity to campaign.
“He’s put a price on the head of every American abroad,” Rubio said. “Our enemies now know that if you can capture an American, you can get something meaningful in exchange for it. … When I become president of the United States, our adversaries around the world will know that America is no longer under the command of someone weak like Barack Obama and it will be like Ronald Reagan, where as soon as he took office the hostages were released from Iran.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.) made a statement on Friday, saying, “This concession was never raised by the State Department as on the table, which the Administration must answer for.”
The stated policy of the US Government is that it will, “Make no concession to terrorists holding official or private US citizens hostage. It will not pay ransom, release prisoners, change its policies, or agree to other acts that might encourage additional terrorism. It is internationally accepted that governments are responsible for the safety and welfare of persons within the borders of their nations.”
Despite this being official US policy for 200 years, the Obama administration has approved of negotiating for hosting in the past. In late June, the President announced the government would no longer threaten to prosecute families of hostages who offered ransoms. At the time, he stated the US government would continue to abide by the “no concessions” policy, despite having negotiated with the Taliban in 2014, which resulted in the exchange of five Guantanamo Bay detainees for the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.