The U.S. State Department on Thursday confirmed that the $400 million payment to Iran was contingent on the release of several American prisoners in Iran last January.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said that while negotiations over returning money to Iran from the decades-old accounts were conducted separately, the U.S. withheld the delivery of the cash as leverage until U.S. citizens had left Iran, the Associated Press reported.
The confirmation by the State Department comes following a report by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that gave new details on the U.S.-Iran money exchange.
“U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17. Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash home from a Geneva airport that day,” the WSJ report said.
Pres. Barack Obama and other top U.S. officials have repeatedly denied that the $400 million payment, which is part of a larger $1.7 billion debt from 1979 when Iran was ruled by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was a ransom payment to the Islamic Republic. Republican lawmakers, however, have charged that the payment equated to ransom and promised to hold hearings on the exchange when Congress returns from its summer recess.