â€œThe Wall Street Journalâ€ reports that President Obama paid $400 million to Tehran, in cash â€“ â€œwooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo planeâ€ – before Tehran released four Americans it has held imprisoned for various alleged offences over the past few years. The mullahs think this was in effect ransom for the four Americans; the Obama Administration insists the payment and the release as well as their timing were entirely coincidental:
The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iranâ€™s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
The settlement, which resolved claims before an international tribunal in The Hague, also coincided with the formal implementation that same weekend of the landmark nuclear agreement reached between Tehran, the U.S. and other global powers the summer beforeâ€¦
Senior U.S. officials denied any link between the payment and the prisoner exchange. They say the way the various strands came together simultaneously was coincidental, not the result of any quid pro quo.
â€œAs weâ€™ve made clear, the negotiations over the settlement of an outstanding claimâ€¦were completely separate from the discussions about returning our American citizens home,â€ State Department spokesman John Kirby said. â€œNot only were the two negotiations separate, they were conducted by different teams on each side, including, in the case of The Hague claims, by technical experts involved in these negotiations for many years.â€
But U.S. officials also acknowledge that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible.
At $100 million per head, this is arguably the highest ransom ever paid by the American government. In the â€œIran-Contraâ€ scandal, Iran actually had to pay inflated prices for anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles sold by Israel from its stock and immediately replenished by the Reagan Administration. The anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua were financed from the profits and some American hostages in Lebanon were also freed by pro-Iranian Hezbollah, which held them. It was illegal and silly, but it was a good deal.
Interestingly, $100 million per head is not the highest ransom ever paid, if adjusted for inflation. The distinction for the richest kidnappers in history belongs to Marxist guerrillas in Argentina, who in the 1974 bagged $295 million (in todayâ€™s dollars) for two businessmen brothers.
Since 17 January, when the four Americans were released and the $400 million arrived in Iran, Tehran has detained three other American citizens of Iranian origin. So the mullahs are still in the running to beat the Argentinian commies at some point in the future.