Now, Phil, you have an interesting take on this. You just say this is the business, this is the life we’ve chosen. I mean, this is the kind of thing that happens in deals like this.


PHIL MUDD: Well, there’s a couple things to think about here, John. First of all, we’re talking about going into a negotiating room, and we as Americans tend to believe we walk into a negotiating room, whether it’s with the Iranians or the Russians, and say, “Here’s the deal, here’s how it’s going to go, sign on the bottom line.” The Iranians, in this case, say, “You’ve frozen assets since right after the revolution 35 years ago, we want our assets back that we paid you. You never gave us the military material we paid for.” Then they say later, “We’ll release hostages.” This isn’t exactly a hostages-for-money deal. I understand the optics look bad, but this is a diplomatic deal. It’s got to be done if you want to get those people out. The second thing I’d say, John, is people thinking $400 million is significant. That’s chump change. The sanctions mean Iran can get tens of billions of dollars from returning to the oil market. $400 million is a lot to pay, I understand, from the optic of an everyday American. In the world of Iran with its return to the oil market, it’s not a significant amount of money.

BERMAN: Phil, ransom, and hostages is something I know you’ve thought a lot about. It’s deeply personal to you. You worked in a, you know, you probably have personal connections to it that we might never learn about. What’s the difference between “ransom,” which is a loaded word, and a quid pro quo that those hostages would not have been released had that money not been delivered.

MUDD: There’s a couple differences. First, we’re dealing with a government, we’re not dealing with a terrorist organization here. Second, I think this is subtle but significant. We didn’t pay for hostages. We paid to resolve a diplomatic dispute that goes back right after the Iranian revolution. What the Iranians would say is “we have a right to get money when we never received what we paid for.” Then they’re going to say at another diplomatic table, “Hey, it’s about time we released these hostages.” This is not as clean as it should be. The White House looks bad, but I understand what they’re doing here. They’re saying, “If we want to get something, we’ve got to give something.”

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