US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at UN headquarters in New York.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The January released of four Americans prisoners from Iran allegedly coincided with a secretly-arranged US cash payment of $400 million to Tehran, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The report cited US and European officials along with members of Congress who were reportedly later briefed on the airlift that rendered the first payment of a $1.7 billion deal the White House administration settled with Iran over a disputed, failed arms deal signed before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The shipment of euros, Swiss francs and other foreign currencies was procured by the Obama administration from the Dutch and Swiss central banks, according to the report. The money transfer was transported to Iran via an unmarked cargo aircraft. The report
cited senior US officials as denying any connection between the installment and the prisoner swap.
As the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was implemented in January, the State Department announced that the US had settled the decades-old claim in the Hague and would pay the Islamic Republic $1.7 billion. The case related to an original $400 million trust fund set up by Iran that was frozen along with severed ties with the US in 1979.
“With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well,” US President Barack Obama was quoted as saying without mention of the $400 million payment.
However, critics have charged that the move represented a ransom settlement.
The Wall Street Journal cited Republican Senator Tom Cotton's as pointing to the $1.7 billion sum as a ransom payment "to the ayatollahs for US hostages."
“This break with longstanding US policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures” he said.
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