Daily TIP

Obama admin paid $400 million to Iran as American hostages were freed, leading to criticism that payment was ransom

Posted by Tip Staff - August 03, 2016


The Obama administration is fielding criticism that it paid a $400 million cash ransom to Iran last January, after The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that it delivered the money on wooden pallets stashed with cash in an unmarked cargo plane while Iran released several American hostages. The administration has long claimed that the money was for a settlement regarding a 1970s arms deal, and was unconnected to the hostages. The Journal article revealed that U.S.-Iran talks on the American detainees originally centered on a prisoner exchange, but eventually “the discussions dovetailed with the arbitration in The Hague concerning the old arms deal.” EU and U.S. officials wouldn’t say when the plane arrived in Iran with the money, but the Tasnim News Agency, a semi-official Iranian organ, said it arrived the same day that the Americans left Iran. General Mohammad Reza Naghdi, commander of the Iranian Basij militia, said at the time, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”
Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iran analyst, wrote in June that Iran’s 2016-17 budget called for the $1.7 billion to be designated for Iran’s military forces. Iran’s military budget increased 90% from the previous year.  A source from the Coalition for a Democratic Syria told TIP, "We know that money from sanctions relief, as well as from this ransom payment, has gone to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, who are supplying arms, weapons, and materiel to the Assad regime, and is used in the ongoing commission of war crimes."
Since the January hostage release, Iran has abducted at least two more Americans and at least three other foreign dual-nationals. The Journal story revealed that the Iranians are trying to use these hostages to extract additional money from the administration: “Friends and family of the Namazis [American hostages detained in Iran] believe the Iranians are seeking to increase their leverage to force another prisoner exchange or cash payment in the final six months of the Obama administration... Iranian officials have demanded in recent weeks the U.S. return $2 billion in Iranian funds that were frozen in New York in 2009.”
The administration claims the $400 million represented the first installment of a payment of $1.7 billion to be sent to the Islamic Republic, with the $400 million representing the amount that the pre-revolutionary Iranian government paid for weapons equipment (which Iran never received due to the overthrow of the Shah) and the balance representing interest on the principle. The interest payment was taken from a U.S. public fund. Both the White House and the State Department Wednesday strongly refuted the notion that this was a ransom payment, saying that the three different tracks (financial settlement, nuclear implementation, and hostage release) had “come to a head” at the same time, and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest suggested that the report was politically motivated.


Oberlin College professor Joy Karega, who was heavily criticized after The Tower revealed in February that she had posted Facebook status claiming that Israel was behind the rise of ISIS and the 9/11 and Charlie Hebdo terror attacks, has been put on leave and will be barred from teaching on campus while her case is reviewed, the school’s president said in a statement on Wednesday.
“I am committed to continuing and completing an equitable review process,” Oberlin president Marvin Krislov wrote in an email to students, staff, and alumni. “While the process is pending, Professor Karega is on paid leave and will not be teaching at Oberlin. Arrangements are being made to cover her teaching and advising responsibilities.”’ He concluded by saying the school “will have no other comment until the conclusion of the process,” citing the “sensitivity” of the review process.
Krislov was criticized for his initial hesitant response to the scandal, writing at the time that “Oberlin College respects the rights of its faculty, students, staff and alumni to express their personal views.” A second statement from Krislov distanced the school from Karega’s postings, but failed to explicitly condemn them.
Other members of Oberlin’s faculty and administration took stronger stands. In early March, Oberlin College Board of Trustees chair Clyde McGregor issued a statementcalling Karega’s postings “abhorrent.” McGregor’s stand was supported by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which issued a statement saying, “Oberlin’s trustees are right….While respecting academic freedom and due process, they must oppose anti-semitism.”
A majority of Karega’s faculty colleagues signed a letter in April condemning her postings. “Bigotry has no place on the Oberlin campus (or anywhere),” the letter said. “It sullies the values of equality and mutual support that are embedded in our institutional DNA as the first coeducational college and the first to admit students of all races as a matter of policy. … As scholars and teachers who treasure all Oberlin has been and must continue to be, we condemn any manifestation of bigotry on our campus — especially from our faculty.”
A group called Oberlin Alums for Campus Fairness expressed concern earlier this week that the college had not taken any further steps to address.
In an apparent response to Krislov’s letter, Karega wrote a new Facebook post that began: “Equitable?” She then expressed gratitude to her supporters and wrote that she had no further comment. (via TheTower.org)

Brazilian and Israeli officials will lead a memorial ceremony to honor the victims of the Munich Massacre during this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The ceremony, scheduled for August 14, will commemorate the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed in the 1972 terror attack as well as the two victims of a bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Games and a Georgian luger who died in an accident at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Widows of weightlifter Yossef Romano and fencing coach Andre Spitzer are expected to attend the memorial event in the athletes’ village in Rio. A memorial stone will also be unveiled at the ceremony and will be displayed at the athletes’ village at the Tokyo 2022 Games. For the past 44 years, Israel, the families of the victims, and many parliaments worldwide have called on the Olympic Committee to honor the Munich Massacre victims with anofficial minute of silence at the Opening or Closing ceremonies. “We never will give up our hope that there will be a moment of silence at the opening ceremony,” Ankie Spitzer, Andre’s widow, told the BBC. Yael Arad, who won a silver Olympic medal for Israel in judo, told the BBC that the massacre in Munich “happened under the umbrella of the IOC” and that is why it is imperative for the international committee to host an official memorial to help ensure it “will never happen again.” (via Israel21c)


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