Washington, D.C.— Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today sent at letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew demanding answers about the Obama Administration’s $400 million payment to Iran. The letter comes in response to a Wall Street Journal articledetailing that this payment was made directly to Iran in cash. Since January, Senator Cotton has repeatedly asked the Administration how and in what currencies the payment was made. None of its responses—to questions posed in a May 25, 2016 Banking Committee hearing as well as in additional written questions—indicated that the payment was made in cash, or that the payment was made simultaneously with the release of U.S. hostages.
The letter reads, in part:
“This report makes plain what the Administration can no longer deny: this was a ransom payment to Iran for U.S. hostages.”
“As you are intimately aware, Iran has a history of illegally detaining U.S. persons as hostages, and it has shown a continued propensity to seize such hostages. Iran is the top state sponsor of terrorism in the world and a destabilizing force throughout the Middle East. Iran has also persistently pursued illicit weapons technology, from ballistic missiles to nuclear weapons capability. I am afraid that the cash payment of a $400 million ransom to the ayatollahs makes all of these problems exponentially worse.”
Given the Obama Administration’s lack of transparency on this issue, Senator Cotton also respectfully asks Secretary Lew and Secretary Kerry to provide full, honest answers to the following questions:
- The timing and nature of the payment makes plain that the payment was a ransom for U.S. hostages. I understand that the administration insists that the negotiation over the $1.7 billion and the negotiation over the hostages occurred on separate tracks. However, are you willing to clearly state that the January release of the hostages would have occurred even if the administration had not agreed to pay $1.7 billion to Iran?
- Have any Iranian officials or their intermediaries discussed with the administration or its intermediaries further cash payments to be made in connection with the release of U.S. hostages currently being detained by Iran?
- That the $400 million was paid in cash form in currencies that are generally accepted for international trade purposes increases the risk that Iran can transfer that cash to terrorist proxies or to sellers of illicit arms and military technology. Is the administration tracking how Iran is using the $400 million in cash? Has any of that cash gone toward funding terrorism or advancing Iran’s attempts to acquire weapons and military technology?
- In what manner and in what currencies will the remaining $1.3 billion be paid? Will it be paid in cash and also flown to Iran?
The full text of the letter is available here.