- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A bill aims to force the Obama administration to confirm within 60 days whether or not it gave a $1.7 billion “ransom payment” to Iran in January in exchange for 10 U.S. sailors captured in its waters.

The No Impunity for Iranian Aggression at Sea Act was filed jointly this week by two Republicans, Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, as a way of determining why $1.7 billion was released to Iran on Jan. 14. The payment was made one day after members of two U.S. Navy patrol boats were freed from captivity.

“I think we can all imagine how a similar situation might have played out three or four years ago, and the fact that today this kind of issue can be resolved peacefully and efficiently is a testament to the critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure, and strong,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said in a statement released Jan. 13.

The legislation seeks to determine whether it was diplomacy or $1.7 billion in taxpayers’ cash that resolved the conflict. The White House maintains that payments to Iran were not linked to the sailors’ release.

“After the Iranians captured 10 U.S. Navy sailors, President Obama mentioned these brave men and women only in passing in his last State of the Union address,” Mr. Pompeo told the Free Beacon on Wednesday. “Since then, instead of investigating whether the Iranians violated the Geneva Convention and the right of innocent passage, the Obama administration has only offered apologies and then fired an American Naval officer. There has been no criticism of the Iranians, no public explanation of why these Americans were forced on their knees, hands on their heads, or why they were forced to confess — nothing from President Obama that would send a signal that this is an unacceptable way to treat American sailors.”

Rep. Randy Forbes, Virginia Republican, told the Free Beacon on March 16 that Americans will be “taken aback” when the full details of the incident are made public.

“I think that’s going to be huge cause for concern for most Americans. That’s why I’ve encouraged members of Congress to get that [classified military] briefing so they do know exactly what did take place.”

In addition to holding U.S. sailors captive, Iranian authorities forced the crew to apologize on state-run television. The service members strayed into Iranian waters when their navigational systems failed.

“It was a mistake, that was our fault, and we apologize for our mistake,” one sailor said on IRIB state TV.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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