A House Republican leader demanded Wednesday that Secretary of State John Kerry explain an additional $1.7 billion settlement payment to Iran that some are referring to as a ransom for releasing the U.S. prisoners held by that country.
Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, complained in a letter to Kerry that his committee was not consulted on this payment. The Obama administration characterized the payment as “interest” for $400 million in funds that were frozen since 1979.
“It is unclear how this payment is in the national security interests of the United States,” Royce wrote, according to Fox News.
Royce’s letter included 10 questions to Kerry about the settlement. Among them are how the administration calculated the $1.3 billion “interest” on the payment, a timeline of negotiations over the payment since this past summer’s nuclear deal, and why the money was not used to “compensate American victims of Iranian terrorism who have been awarded judgments against Iran.”
Royce’s letter also asks for a list of U.S. officials who participated in negotiations with Iran over the payment, the prisoner release and the nuclear agreement.
But what makes the payment appear fishy is that the White House announced the additional settlement on January 17 — the very day Iran released the five American prisoners.
Those prisoners included Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, former Marine Amir Hekmati and Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. Iran continues to deny that it has former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared on March 9, 2007, when visiting Iran’s Kish Island.
President Obama defended the payment and claimed it was less than what Iran demanded and that interest would continue to accumulate if the payment wasn’t made.
“I have a larger concern that in choosing to resolve this relatively minor bilateral dispute at this time, the Obama Administration is aggressively moving towards reestablishing diplomatic relations with Iran,” Royce wrote. “Such action would clearly violate the President’s pledge to “remain vigilant” in countering the threat Iran poses to the United States and our allies in the region.”
Making the situation even dicier is the fact that Iran is a state sponsor of terror, and even Kerry admitted during a CNBC interview that some of the funds will likely fall into the hands of terrorist organizations.
Watch the following report via Fox News.
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