Why the Obama administration is refusing to say where the funds ended up
By Ari Lieberman
It appears that when it comes to its dealings with the Islamic Republic, the Obama administration’s miscues are boundless. The latest fiasco involves the recent transfer of $1.3 billion in taxpayer money to Iran’s mullahs. Both the White House and the State Department are shamefully unable or unwilling to provide the public with any pertinent information concerning the transfer.
At a State Department briefing, spokesman Mark Toner remained opaque and evasive about the transaction and said that he did not know who in Iran received the money. Nor was he able to confirm the method of payment -- check or cash, U.S. or foreign currency. All he was able to disclose was that the funds transferred reflected money -- principle and interest -- owed to Iran from a 1979 aborted arms deal.
An additional $400 million was transferred to Iran last month and was part of an overall payment of $1.7 billion. According to the administration, the monies paid reflected a settlement of Iran’s claims against the U.S. stemming from the 1979 aborted arms transaction. Ironically, the Iranians were not required to pay anything to the 52 American hostages they kidnapped in 1979. Those hostages were held in dungeon-like conditions for 444 days. Like all transactions conducted by the Obama administration, the benefits flow one way.
There are several troubling aspects to this story. Though the administration has issued strenuous denials, it is clear that the first installment of $400 million was a ransom payment made to secure the release of Americans held hostage in Iran.
At a briefing in early August, White House spokesman Josh Earnest refused to directly address the following question posed by a journalist; “would these prisoners have been released if this money had not been paid?” The question was posed on no less than three occasions and required a simple “yes” or “no” response. The shifty Earnest was evasive and refused to provide a direct response. Instead, he offered painfully convoluted explanations that shed light on nothing except for how disingenuous he is.
At the State Department briefing, Toner came very close to acknowledging that the $400 million payment was in fact a ransom payment. He stated that while the payment was part of an overall commercial settlement, it was used as “leverage” to ensure that the Americans were released. The White House however, immediately repudiated the State Department’s characterization.
We thought that Obama could stoop no lower after he traded five hard-core Taliban terrorists held at Guantanamo for the deserter and traitor Bowe Bergdahl. We were wrong. The feckless White House is now in the business of disgracefully paying two-bit dictators protection money. Obama can issue all the denials he wants but if it walks like a ransom payment and talks like a ransom payment, it is most likely a ransom payment.
Even if we gave the administration the benefit of the doubt, the harm caused by the mere appearance of a ransom payment is incalculable and puts the safety of Americans throughout the world at risk. Somali pirates, Islamic terrorists, the North Koreans and others engaged in the kidnapping business are all watching.
Even more disconcerting is the second installment of $1.3 billion to the Iranians. One would think that with such a large transfer of taxpayer money, the recipients and method of payment could be verified. But the administration is being deliberately evasive on this issue because it is cognizant of the fact that the money was likely transferred to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the entity that pulls the strings in the Islamic Republic and is responsible for much of region’s turmoil.
Once in the coffers of the IRGC, the hefty sum was almost certainly used to further fuel regional mischief. The IRGC is the entity singularly responsible for propping up Bashar Assad of Syria. It is also a virtual certainty that some of the money was allocated to Iran’s Shia mercenary force in Lebanon, Hezbollah, and it could not have come at a more opportune for the group, which had been suffering from financial distress in recent years.
The Obama administration has turned into Iran’s White Knight, saving the Islamic Republic from financial ruin while providing it with a legal pathway to acquire nuclear weapons through the flawed Iran deal. Ironically, Obama, who claims that running the Guantanamo facility is too expensive and drains resources has no qualms whatsoever about transferring $1.7 billion in taxpayer money to America’s most implacable foe. But then again, judging by his foreign policies, it is unclear whether he even considers Iran an enemy.