A major part of President Obama's final press conference at the Pentagon was centered on our alleged payment of $400 million for the release of American Hostages from Iran. I found this allegation particularly troubling because of our long stated policy of not paying for the release of hostages to avoid the precedent it creates in future cases. From researching the issue, I found the following:
1. The money was Iran's, not the U.S. and was part of the assets we (and other allies) froze starting in 1979 in response to Iran's continuing support of terrorism in the world, threatening weapon development and threats against Israel.
2. We had publicly agreed to release the $400 million to Iran in January of this year as part of the controversial Iran Joint Plan of Action ("JPA") to eliminate their major weapon development program.
3. Although heavily criticized by the Republicans and some in Israel at the time, the Iran JPA, according to the President yesterday, has had the required compliance by Iran. This may be the most important disclosure from the press conference.
4. Iran has held some Americans as hostage for some time, and as a part of the continuing progress within the JPA, agreed to release them.
5. Apparently the U. S. was told by an International Court that we had to release the $400 million to Iran now. It is not clear if Iran or the U.S. insisted on the timing of the payment and the release of the hostages, but it's concurrence is what created the appearance of a payoff. The U.S. did not help it's position by delivering the money clandestinely. For the U. S. to have agreed to that and now act surprised at criticism is naive and insulting. The apparent strategy was to try to keep the payment secret, and if discovered, focus on the JPA.
6. In fairness, apparently the parties agreed to release additional U. S. hostages. Although that decision increased the appearance of a payoff, affected American families are understandably relieved to have the return of additional hostages. All of us want Americans safe and free. The President should be trying to free Americans every way he can, legally..
Critiquing this appearance and reality, I cannot understand why the U. S., at some point, did not escrow the funds with an independent third party, subject to release upon a court ruling. Also troubling is why there is no recognition that the highly risky JPA with Iran on reducing world threatening weapons is apparently proceeding well.