On September 7, three experts - Jay Solomon, James Dobbins, and Dennis Ross - addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute to discuss whether the contentious history of U.S.-Iranian relations stems more from unrealistic American expectations and missed opportunities, or from the Islamic Republic's strategic decision to oppose Washington's interests. Ambassador Dobbins is a former U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other positions. Ambassador Ross, who moderated the event, is the Institute's William Davidson Distinguished Fellow and former special assistant to President Obama. The following is a rapporteur's summary of their remarks.
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...Read More
Exchange was tightly scripted and specifically timed to the prisoner release
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.
PBS News Hour: "The Wall Street Journal revealed this week that in January, the Obama administration secretly airlifted $400 million in cash to Iran. The money was owed as part of a failed arms deal prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but payment coincided with the release of four Americans held in Tehran. Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Jay Solomon, the Wall Street Journal reporter who broke the story."
Watch the interview below:
Middle East scholar Ray Takeyh and journalists Carol Lee and Jay Solomon report on President Obama's correspondence with Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei regarding a nuclear arms deal on Charlie Rose:
The Iranian scientist considered Tehran's atomic-weapons guru until he was apparently sidelined several years ago is back at work, according to United Nations investigators and U.S. and Israeli officials, sparking fresh concerns about the status of Iran's nuclear program. Read the full story