Was It Ransom?

Numerous people are claiming that the money that the United States turned over to Iran back in January was ransom. So, was it? No. This is what State Department Spokesperson James Kirby actually said on Thursday:

We were able to conclude multiple strands of diplomacy within a 24-hour period, including implementation of the nuclear deal, the prisoner talks, and the settlement of an outstanding Hague Tribunal claim which saved American taxpayers potentially billions of dollars.

As we said at the time, we deliberately leveraged that moment to finalize these outstanding issues nearly simultaneously. It's already publicly known that we returned to Iran its $400 million in that same time period as part of The Hague settlement agreement. With concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release given unnecessary delays regarding persons in Iran who could not be located as well as, to be quite honest, mutual mistrust between Iran and the United States, we, of course, sought to retain maximum leverage until after American citizens were released. That was our top priority.

Think about what Kirby said and read Zach Beauchamp's post carefully, as he addresses every concern raised to date. As Steve Rabinowitz points out, the money was Iran's to begin with. By leveraging the timing, we made sure that Iran upheld its commitments. I have yet to see a better alternative strategy offered by the critics.

The Obama administration settled a decades-old claim on favorable terms, secured the release of the hostages, and concluded a deal that prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. We got everything we wanted.

Suzanne Maloney notes that "the use of financial leverage to pressure Tehran to curtail its most dangerous practices has constituted a core element of U.S. policy toward Iran for nearly 40 years." But that's small consolation for those who believe that history began on Jan. 20, 2009.

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