The chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee demanded Wednesday that Secretary of State John Kerry explain a $1.7 billion settlement paid to Iran that some Republicans have described as a “ransom” tied to last month’s release of five American prisoners.
Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., complained in a letter to Kerry that his committee was not consulted about the payment. The Obama administration claimed the agreement was made to settle a dispute with Iran over $400 million in frozen funds that dated back to 1979. The remaining $1.3 billion was described by the Obama administration as “interest”.
“It is unclear how this $1.7 billion payment is in the national security interests of the United States,” Royce wrote.
Royce’s letter included 10 questions to Kerry about the settlement. Among them are how the administration calculated the $1.3 billion “interest” on the payment, a timeline of negotiations over the payment since this past summer’s nuclear deal, and why the money was not used to “compensate American victims of Iranian terrorism who have been awarded judgments against Iran.”
Royce’s letter also asks for a list of U.S. officials who participated in negotiations with Iran over the payment, the prisoner release and the nuclear agreement.
The White House announced the payment on Jan. 17, the same day that Iran released five American prisoners, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former Marine Amir Hekmati, and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini.
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