WASHINGTON (Talk Media News) – Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) intends to hold a hearing in September on how the Obama administration’s $400 million payment to Iran in January is being used by the country.
“The American people have a right to know if any U.S. taxpayer money sent to Iran is going to finance the new ‘Shi’ite Liberation Army,’ Hezbollah or Hamas terrorists targeting our allies in Israel, or any other Iranian terrorist activities,” said Sen. Kirk, who chairs the Senate Banking Subcommittee with oversight of the Treasury Department, Iran sanctions laws and terrorist financing.
The prisoner swap and airlifted cash payment carried out by the Obama administration were not secret, but their seemingly choreographed timing and that the payment was made in cash was pointed out in an August Wall Street Journal report, creating a new wind of criticism.
Last week, the State Department conceded for the first time that the $400 million payment to Iran was delayed for several hours “to retain maximum leverage” and ensure that three American prisoners were released the same day. It denied that the payment constituted “ransom,” as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have alleged.
The State Department announced the payment on Jan. 17, saying that it was part of a decades-long legal dispute surrounding compensation for an arms deal that was subsequently revoked after Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was ousted from power during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The cash transfer consisted of Euros and Swiss Francs and was the principle installment of a compensatory package totaling $1.7 billion, including $1.3 billion in interest.
The White House confirmed Monday that the $1.3 billion interest payment has been made by a “transaction involving central banks.”
“Obviously not the U.S. central bank,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, “because there are extensive restrictions between the United States and Iran, so we had to work with partners. And out of respect for our partners, we’re not going to disclose which partner it was.”
Earnest said that the initial $400 million dollar transaction was a central bank to central bank transaction, and cited “additional flexibility” since the passage of the Iran nuclear deal to explain why the $400 million was paid in cash rather than wire transfer.
President Barack Obama has said that the U.S. paid Iran in foreign cash because the U.S. does not grant Iran access to its financial system under current sanctions.
In an interview published Saturday, Kirk called Obama the “drug dealer-in-chief” for his decision to make the cash payment to Iran.
“We can’t have the president of the United States acting like the drug dealer in chief,” Kirk said to the State Journal-Register’s editorial board, “giving clean packs of money to a … state sponsor of terror. Those 500-euro notes will pop up across the Middle East … We’re going to see problems in multiple (countries) because of that money given to them.”
Earnest pushed back against the notion that Obama’s critics even understand how Iran shuttles money to its proxies.
“I’d be surprised if they have much insight into how exactly Iran engages in these financial transactions with their proxies,” Earnest said. “If they do, maybe some of our intel analysts would like to talk to them.”