Inside the 37-Year Standoff Over Iran’s Frozen U.S. Dollars

Iran sought the money from every administration since Carter’s; will Obama’s deal encourage more claims?

When the shah of Iran fell in 1979, the U.S. froze at least $400 million of Iranian money sitting in a Pentagon trust fund. The Islamic Republic of Iran never stopped trying to get it back.

Tehran unsuccessfully sought the money from Jimmy Carter in return for 52 American diplomats held hostage for 444 days. It asked the Reagan administration for the same money during dealings that led to the Iran-Contra scandal. The issue came up...

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U.S. Acknowledges Cash Payment to Iran Was ‘Leverage’ in Prisoner Release

State Department confirms U.S. refused to allow Iran to take $400 million cash payment until plane carrying freed Americans left Tehran

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration said for the first time on Thursday that its $400 million cash payment to Iran in January was used as “leverage” to gain the release of American prisoners, fueling criticism that the exchange amounted to the U.S. paying ransom.

State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed that the U.S. refused to allow Iran to take possession of the cash until a plane carrying the freed Americans had taken off... 

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U.S. Held Cash Until Iran Freed Prisoners

Exchange was tightly scripted and specifically timed to the prisoner release

  Secretary of State John Kerry talked with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Vienna on Jan. 16.     PHOTO: KEVIN LAMARQUE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Secretary of State John Kerry talked with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Vienna on Jan. 16. PHOTO: KEVIN LAMARQUE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—New details of the $400 million U.S. payment to Iran earlier this year depict a tightly scripted exchange specifically timed to the release of several American prisoners held in Iran.

The picture emerged from accounts of U.S. officials and others briefed on the operation: U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17. Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash home from a Geneva airport that day.

President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials have said the payment didn’t amount to ransom, because the U.S. owed the money to Iran as part of a longstanding dispute linked to a failed arms deal from the 1970s. U.S. officials have said that the prisoner release and cash transfer took place through two separate diplomatic channels.

But the handling of the payment and its connection to the Americans’ release have raised questions among lawmakers and administration critics.

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Secret Dealings With Iran Led to Nuclear Talks

Years of clandestine exchanges between the two countries helped build a foundation for nuclear negotiations

Iran secretly passed to the White House beginning in late 2009 the names of prisoners it wanted released from U.S. custody, part of a wish list to test President Barack Obama’s commitment to improving ties and a move that set off years of clandestine dispatches that helped open the door to nuclear negotiations. Read more

Uranium Provides New Clue on Iran’s Past Nuclear Arms Work

Obama administration says IAEA discovery during inspection last year points to weapons program

The Obama administration has concluded that uranium particles discovered last year at a secretive Iranian military base likely were tied to the country’s past, covert nuclear weapons program, current and former officials said, a finding that contradicts Tehran’s longstanding denials that it was pursuing a bomb. 

Concessions Fueled Iran Nuclear Talks

U.S. gave up on eliminating most of Iran’s nuclear program, while Tehran took steps such as agreeing to mothball centrifuges

Top Obama administration officials entered negotiations with Iran in September 2013 hoping to dismantle most of the country’s nuclear infrastructure—but carrying gnawing doubts such an outcome was possible. Those concerns were quickly confirmed when U.S. and Iranian diplomats sat down for their first formal meeting the following month at the United Nations offices near the shores of Lake Geneva. 

Obama Wrote Secret Letter to Iran’s Khamenei About Fighting Islamic State

Presidential Correspondence With Ayatollah Stresses Shared U.S.-Iranian Interests in Combating Insurgents, Urges Progress on Nuclear Talks

President Barack Obama secretly wrote to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the middle of last month and described a shared interest in fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, according to people briefed on the correspondence. Read more

Iranian Imbroglio Gives New Boost To Odd Exile Group

Called a Terror Cult by Many, MEK Wins Friends in U.S. Because It Opposes Tehran

Early this summer, as Washington fretted about Iran's nuclear program, supporters of Mujahedin-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition group, held a rally in an auditorium two blocks from the White House. Prominent members of Congress addressed the crowd, as did the State Department's recently retired ambassador-at-large for war crimes. Read the full story