The Obama administration is acknowledging its transfer of $1.7 billion to Iran earlier this year was made entirely in cash, using non-U.S. currency, as Republican critics of the transaction continued to denounce the payments.
Treasury Department spokeswoman Dawn Selak said in a statement late Tuesday that the cash payments were necessary because of the “effectiveness of U.S. and international sanctions,” which isolated Iran from the international finance system.
The $1.7 billion was the settlement of a decades-old arbitration claim between the U.S. and Iran. An initial $400 million of euros, Swiss francs and other foreign currency was delivered on pallets Jan. 17, the same day Tehran agreed to release four American prisoners.
The Obama administration had claimed the events were separate, but recently acknowledged the cash was used as leverage until the Americans were allowed to leave Iran. The remaining $1.3 billion represented estimated interest on the Iranian cash the U.S. had held since the 1970s. The administration had previously declined to say if the interest was delivered to Iran in physical cash, as with the principal, or via a more regular banking mechanism.