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US transferred USD 1.7 billion to Iran in foreign cash

Wednesday, Sep 7, 2016,14:52 IST By metrovaartha A A A

Washington | The Obama administration has acknowledged that it transferred a total of USD 1.7 billion in cash through Swiss banks to Iran around the time American hostages were released this year, about four times the amount originally disclosed to the public.

As previously reported, the first shipment of USD 400 million in cash was delivered on January 17, the same day Tehran agreed to release four American prisoners. Two more such shipments totalling another USD 1.3 billion were sent in the next 19 days, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“The cash payments made in Swiss francs, euros and other currencies settled a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal dating back to 1979,” the paper reported based on the information obtained from Congressional officials who were briefed on this issue by the US State, Treasury and Justice departments.

According to Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration briefed lawmakers about it yesterday.

The lawmakers were told that the two further portions of the USD 1.3 billion were transferred though Europe on January 22 and February 5.

The payment “flowed in the same manner” as the original USD400 million that an Iranian cargo plane picked up in Geneva, Switzerland, according to a congressional aide who took part in the briefing.

“The form of those principal and interest payments made in non-US currency, in cash was necessitated by the effectiveness of US and international sanctions regimes over the last several years in isolating Iran from the international financial system,” Treasury spokeswoman Dawn Selak said.

The Trump campaign slammed the Obama Administration for this latest round of cash transfer.

“President Obama’s secret USD 400 million ransom payments to Iran already set an incredibly dangerous precedent, and news that it was followed by two more plane loads of cash only makes this blunder even worse,” said Jason Miller, senior communications advisor to the Trump Campaign.

“Hillary Clinton’s support for President Obama’s approach to Iran, including the deeply flawed nuclear deal she helped spearhead, reflects the same bad judgement that characterised her foreign policy decision-making as Secretary of State,” he said.

“The United States should not be helping fund the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and Hillary Clinton needs to disavow these secret payments immediately,” Miller said.

During the close door Congressional briefing, the daily reported, US lawmakers voiced concern that Iran’s military units, particularly the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, would use the cash to finance military allies in the Middle East, including the Assad regime in Syria, Houthi militias in Yemen, and the Lebanese militia, Hezbollah.

“The US government should not be in the business of negotiating with terrorists and paying ransom money in exchange for the release of American hostages,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio, said.

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