The latest tensions over US/ Iran relations have found American conservatives claiming that President Obama paid a multi-million dollar ransom for the release of Americans held hostage by Iran this January.
The ransom claims, however, are a farce.
The truth and “evidence” stops with the date January 16, 2016. On that day, Iran released the 4 Americans it was holding hostage. Also on that day, a shipment of 400 million dollars of foreign cash arrived in Iran’s capital, Tehran.
The two events are not related, no matter how long and hard conservatives want to beat the drum claiming that they are.
The 400 million dollars was sent to Iran as the first installment in the resolution to a decades long legal dispute, stretching all the way back to the Iranian revolution in 1979.
All those decades ago, the United States government froze all Iranian assets held within America and effectively severed all ties with the Middle Eastern nation. There was a multi-million dollar payment owed the Iranians by the United States that thus never went through.
That payment is what the millions delivered this January begins to compensate for. Yes, the monies were delivered on the same day as a total of 5 Americans were released. That point, however, is where the relation ceases.
Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini were actually released as part of a prisoner exchange between the US and Iran.
In exchange for the 4 Americans, the United States freed 7 Iranian- Americans held prisoner for violating the the longstanding Western sanctions held on the Iranian economy.
That’s not to say America gets off free, however. Rather, at one point, an American president did in fact pay a ransom to Iran in exchange for the release of hostages.
That president was conservative icon Ronald Reagan.
The beginning of the Reagan era was marked by a rosy outlook on America’s ability to deal with overseas hostage situations. On Reagan’s first Inauguration Day, 52 Americans held hostage by Iranian militants in Tehran were released.
Reagan had absolutely nothing to do with it, however, although conservatives like to cite some kind of “fear” he induced in world leaders. Rather, the release was the result of outgoing President Jimmy Carter’s months of negotiations.
Reagan-led America’s ability to deal with overseas hostage situations went downhill fast. When Reagan was confronted with a near repeat of the crisis that marked the beginning of his tenure, what did he do?
He didn’t take the Iranians to the negotiating table. Instead, he set in motion an arms deal for the release of the Americans being held by Iranian militants, this time in Lebanon.
Sure, he eventually confessed to what exploded into the Iran- Contra scandal. But that wasn’t before he and his administration set into motion a massive violation of international law.
That’s not to say, however, that Reagan ever made amends for his crimes. His “confession” cited his “heart and best intentions” as justification for the atrocity.
Back in the late 1980’s, Reagan said:
‘A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. As the Tower board reported, what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages.’
Thus, no, President Obama didn’t pay a secret ransom for American hostages and break American and global legal precedent. Someone else did though, and that someone is Ronald Reagan.
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