In a new twist concerning a U.S. payment of mixed-currency cash to Iran, one of the four freed hostages has spoken out, perhaps confirming speculation that the timing of their release was more than a coincidence. At the heart of the issue is the Obama administration, which stands by a statement claiming the cash payment was part of a decades-old settlement the U.S. owed Iran. According to the President, the payment had nothing to do with the release of hostages, which, if it were true, could signal the start of a highly dangerous precedent of paying ransom for American captives. American policy has long been “we don’t negotiate with terrorists,” but former hostage Saeed Abedeni’s recent statement concerning the actions of Iranians at the airfield is enough to question whether or not that is still our stance.
“I just remember the night at the airport sitting for hours and hours there, and I asked police, ‘Why are you not letting us go?’ ” Abedini said. “He said, ‘We are waiting for another plane so if that plane doesn’t come, we never let [you] go.’ ”
Another plane. According to the Wall Street Journal article that first broke the story, that “other plane” turned out to be an unmarked cargo plane laden with $400 million in cash. Why in the world would Iran keep our hostages sitting on the tarmac for “hours and hours” if their release had nothing to do with the arrival of wooden pallets stacked to the ceiling with Swiss Francs, Euros, and a myriad of other currencies (save a single U.S. Dollar)?
“This wasn’t some nefarious deal,” Obama told reporters. “It wasn’t a secret. We were completely open about it.”
While the President claims there was no secret deal, he clearly failed to alert Congress, the media, and the American people of the minute details of such a deal. Here’s the White House response immediately after the WSJ story broke. Obama came on a day later and discussed how this payment of $400 million was going to save us “billions.”
The American people are left to decide what really happened that night in Tehran. Did we plan to ship the first installment of our debt with Iran totally separate of the release of hostages? Did the President imagine that the best outcome would simply be two airplanes, passing in the night, one laden with hostages freed on the goodwill of the Iranian ayatollahs and the other stuffed to the gills with foreign currencies? If he really wanted complete transparency, might he not have touted the savings of this plan to the American people, and shown us all the exchange? Wouldn’t he want more good publicity for such a highly controversial nuclear deal?
As always, the truth is probably somewhere in between ransom and coincidence. But when the potential exists for coincidence to be confused with ransom, we start to put people’s lives at risk.
Editorial cartoon courtesy of Robert L. Lang