NEWS

President Obama: We Do Not Pay Ransom For Hostages

President Barack Obama at a press conference reaffirmed the U.S. position by making it clear that the country does not pay ransom for hostages.

Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza - President Barack Obama.
Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza – President Barack Obama.

The President offense came against the background of a charge that a transfer of $400 million in cash to Iran the same day four American hostages were freed from the country was ransom money.

“What we have is the manufacturing of outrage in a story that we disclosed in January,” Obama said at a Pentagon news conference. “And the only bit of news that is relevant on this is the fact that we paid cash.”

It was earlier reported in the press that there was an airlift to Iran of cash consisting of — euros, Swiss francs, and other currencies in the amount of a total of 400 million dollars.

The money dropped was linked to a prisoner swap in January in which seven Iranians detained in the US were exchanged for Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and three other Iranian-American prisoners.

However, the claim has been disputed and the payment has been explained as part of a decades-old dispute over money Iran sent to the US to buy weapons that they never received.

Obama said the US had previously disclosed the $400 million payment to Iran and argued the reason the payment was made in cash was because of existing sanctions in place against Iran.

“The reason that we had to give them cash is precisely because we are so strict in maintaining sanctions and we do not have a banking relationship with Iran, that we couldn’t send them a check and we could not wire the money,” he said. “And it is not at all clear to me why it is that cash, as opposed to a check or a wire transfer, has made this into a new story. Maybe because it kind of feels like a spy novel … because cash was exchanged.”

The cash transfer came after the Obama administration struck a deal with Iran to limit its capacity to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief for the country.

Some have said the hostages detained in Iran, who were being held illegally, were used as bargaining chips as nuclear negotiations were underway.

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

Yvad Billings, Readers Bureau, Fellow

Edited by Jesus Chan

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