US gave Iran $1.7 billion in 'ransom payment'

Officials try to avoid answers on large payment to Iran in January. Congressman insists it was ransom for US prisoners.

Tags: Iran US
Matt Wanderman ,

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

The United States government has given Iran almost $2 billion in what is being called a "ransom payment," the Washington Free Beacon reports.

The payments came following three years of secret discussions with the Islamic Republic, and more payments are still expected to be added. Both the discussions and the payments are separate from last year's nuclear deal, which ended with Iran receiving $150 billion in frozen assets from the US.

The transfer was agreed upon in January, but only came to light after Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) called for an inquiry into a $1.7 billion payment to Iran. He suggested that the money was given to encourage Iran to release hostages.

An assistant secretary for legislative affairs has now provided the Administration's answer to the charges. She claims that the talks focus on clearing up Iranian legal claims against the US, and have been ongoing since 2014. She added that concluding the issues is worth billions of dollars in public money.

The legal issues deal with a large arms deal between the two countries that was signed before the 1979 Iranian revolution. After terrorists besieged the US embassy and took officials hostage, the US canceled the deal. The case is still under review at the Iran-US Claims Tribunal at the Hague.

Iran’s "fact-intensive claims involve over 1,000 separate contracts between Iran and the United States," the assistant secretary explained. 

There has been no answer to Pompeo's question of whether the payments were intended to convince Tehran to free a group of American prisoners, which it did shortly after the US agreed to hand over the money.

"It would not be in the interest of the United States to discuss further details of the settlement of these claims in an unclassified letter due to the ongoing litigation at the Tribunal," the State Department told Pompeo.

An inside source warned the Free Beacon, "When Iran releases American hostages, and then, on that same day, President Obama announces he is paying Iran $1.7 billion, Congress of course has to ask the hard questions. And when the Obama administration admits that over $1 billion in taxpayer money is going to the Iranian regime, Congress is obligated to respond. The State Department has ducked and dodged–providing a history lesson on international tribunals, focused on actions decades ago, instead of addressing dangerous misdeeds that were potentially just committed. That is suspicious."

"We are confident that this was a good settlement for the American taxpayer," the State Department insists.