- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2016

President Obama insisted Thursday that his administration’s $400 million cash payment to Iran in January was not ransom for Americans jailed there, saying he announced the payment at the time as part of an old financial settlement.

“We do not pay ransom for hostages,” Mr. Obama said at the Pentagon. “We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future.”

Reports surfaced this week that the administration airlifted pallets of foreign currency in an unmarked cargo plane to Tehran just as the Iranians were releasing the five American hostages. The administration said at the time that Iran was receiving a payment for a decades-old arms deal that was never completed, but officials did not disclose back then how the money transfer was taking place.

Justice Department officials objected at the time, believing that it would appear to be a ransom payment and that the Iranians would portray it that way. The Iranians did claim it was a ransom payment, and now Republican lawmakers are calling on Secretary of State John F. Kerry to explain the deal.

Mr. Obama said the only new detail was the cash involved, and he said it was because the administration’s strict sanctions precluded a normal banking transfer.

“The only bit of news on this is the fact that we paid cash,” Mr. Obama said. “We could not send them a check and we could not wire them the money. The reason cash was exchanged was because we don’t have a banking relationship with Iran.”

He said the payment itself “wasn’t a secret.”

“We were completely open with everyone about it,” Mr. Obama said.

The president slammed his critics for “the manufacture of outrage” over the story, saying they’re looking for more ways to undermine the administration’s nuclear deal with Tehran.

“It’s now been well over a year since the agreement with Iran to stop its nuclear program was signed,” he said. “By all accounts, it has worked exactly the way we said it was going to work.”

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