In the couple-odd days since the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Obama administration laundered cash in order to bring off a Guido-at-the-docks ransom drop for American prisoners in Iran, Team Obama has been earnestly (so shoot me) denying that the ransom payment was any such thing.
According to Obama, the payment of the $400 million (part of $1.7 billion total released to Iran in January 2016) just happened to coincide with the release of the prisoners. The amount in question related to an old arms deal and was owed to Iran from decades ago (something everyone already knew, by the way; this point is a red herring). A number of things were being negotiated at once, as the administration tells it, and go figure, the funds were released at just about the same time as the hosta- — as the American prisoners.
Indeed, said John Kerry today (in a touch of psychedelic genius), the main motive behind the timing was saving the American taxpayer money. The longer the settlement negotiations for the old debt dragged on, the more interest the taxpayer would owe. (Don’t doubt me on this.)
We could argue back that the taxpayer wouldn’t have even noticed the extra interest that might accrue from waiting a decent interval — call it a week — to release the cash. Just so a watching world, including Iran, would have to think twice about whether the U.S. was being extorted by a meaner, crueler mob boss for, you know, ransom.
But really. What difference, at this point, does it make? They know what Obama is. They know.
It probably makes as little difference as the residue on the smoking gun, in this gem unearthed from an interview, on Thursday 4 August, with prisoner Saeed Abedini, the Iranian-American pastor who was released as part of the deal.
Abedini spoke to Trish Regan on Fox Business News, and confirmed that the American prisoners awaiting departure were held at the airport in Tehran until both of two unmarked planes arrived. The plane that was to transport them got there on 16 January. But they ended up having to wait overnight for the second plane to arrive. The arrival of the second plane, as Abedini describes it, dovetails with Iranian media reporting from 17 January about the planeload of cash arriving in Tehran (see links from my initial post, at the top).
The Iranians Abedini spoke to wouldn’t be explicit with him about why they were waiting for a second plane. But they said several times, apparently, that that’s what the hold-up was.
Transcript of his exchange with Trish Regan (underlined emphasis added):
ABEDINI: I just remember the night that we’ve been in an airport – you know – just take hours and hours there. And I asked one of the intelligence police heads that was with us – that why we were not letting us to go to the [inaudible] plane and he told me we are waiting for another plane. And if that plane takes off then we are going to let you go.
REGAN: So did they actually take you out of the prison that you were in? And I want to get to the conditions that you had to live through in just a moment, but they took you out of your prison and brought you to an airport?
ABEDINI: Yeah we were at the airport for a night and you know they told us –
REGAN: – so you slept there at the airport?
ABEDINI: Yes for a night. And, you know, they told us you are going to be there for 20 minutes but it took like hours and hours. We slept at the airport and when I asked them why you don’t let us go – because the plane was there, pilot was there, everyone was ready that we leave the country – they said we are waiting for another plane. And until that plane doesn’t come we never let you go.
REGAN: So eventually another plane came, and did they then put you on that plane or were they just waiting for that plane, and I think you know where I am going with this, were they effectively waiting for the money to come in before they then let you take off?
ABEDINI: Yeah they didn’t talk about money they just told us about – they told me – about the plane. And you know the plane of Prime Minister of Switzerland was already in Iran, which you know we came back with that plane actually – so their reason that they said you are here in the airport was just because we were waiting for another plane.
REGAN: Okay so what happened did the other plane eventually land or did it land at another airport somewhere else?
ABEDINI: After that they never told anything to me and I didn’t see anything, you know –
REGAN: So do you have any idea how many hours you actually waited for this other plane?
ABEDINI: For a night. You know we went to the airport I think it was like 2, 3pm and we waited there for a whole night. And we, you know, fly back I think the day after at 10 in the morning.
Fox’s James Rosen had tried to pry some sort of declarative statement out of the State Department’s Mark Toner on this question at the daily briefing on Wednesday, but to no avail.
ROSEN/FOX: Can you at least assure us that the hostages were in the process of being set free prior to the touching down of this plane with the pallets of cash?
TONER: I’m – so – and I’m going to be very precise here. So – and I was actually with the Secretary in Vienna, I want to say, when we did reach the – this was the night of the implementation of the JCPOA. And as I said, it was a moment where three separate lines of effort were culminating at the same time. And all of them were, as I said, separate but distinct lines of effort operating concurrently. You had the JCPOA implementation day, you had the freeing of the American hostages or detainees, and you also had this Hague settlement taking place. So as to the timing, I simply don’t – I can’t answer conclusively that these hostage – or these detainees, Americans, were on a plane before that money arrived. I might be able to get you an answer on that, but what I can say –
ROSEN/FOX: If you could take it as a taken question.
MR TONER: Sure. What I can say though categorically is that there was not any kind of understanding on the part of the Iranians and certainly not on the part of us that these two were linked, that one had to happen before the other would.
There’s probably a limit to how long most of us can stand to watch the Obama administration wriggling belly-up, like bugs. Meanwhile, Iran continues to behave exactly as if the whole laundered-cash drop was, in fact, a ransom payment — by taking new hostages to leverage for big payoffs.
It’s not like there’s anyone who’s confused at this point (outside of Obama’s own deluded Amen corner).