Monday, August 22, 2016

THE $400 MILLION - 'Leverage' ?

"Leverage:  The ability of a small investment to produce a large return." - Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary

"Payment to Iran was used as ‘leverage' for hostage release, admits State Department" PBS NewsHour 8/19/2016


SUMMARY:  In January, Iran released American hostages in a development coinciding with a U.S.  payout of $400 million -- money that had been owed for decades.  The Obama administration previously denied a connection between the two events, but on Friday, the State Department modified its response, saying the money was used as “leverage.” Judy Woodruff talks to department spokesman Adm. John Kirby for more.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The January release of American prisoners from Iran was accompanied by a $400 million payment, money the Islamic republic had been owed for decades from a weapons sale that was never completed between the United States and Iran because of the revolution there.  The Obama administration announced the payment at the time.

But, lately, critics have alleged that the payment's proximity to the release amounted to a ransom, a charge the administration denies.  But, yesterday, the State Department modified its response, saying the millions of dollars were used as — quote — “leverage” amid the negotiations over the prisoners.

Earlier today, I spoke with the State Department's top spokesman, Adm. John Kirby.

Adm.  John Kirby, welcome.

You have said that the cash payment that went to the Iranian government was intended as leverage to gain the release of these American prisoners.  How is that different from paying ransom?

JOHN KIRBY, State Department Spokesman:  Well, I didn't say that it was used — that it was a leverage payment.

Remember, this was Iranian money that they had coming to them through The Hague tribunal, and it was money that had been frozen way back in 1979.  So it was their money and they were going to get it anyway.

These parallel tracks were moving forward, and they began to converge.  In fact, we took advantage of the convergence in a short 24-hour period to kind of wrap it all up together.

Now, what I said is, though, while there is no connection between the $400 million and the return of our American citizens, we did, however, in those endgame hours, hold back that payment until we knew that our Americans were safe and sound and on their way out of Iran, because, in the very last few hours, Iran was playing a few games here on us.

And we weren't quite sure that the release was going to happen.  And we were worried about Iran reneging on that very lengthy negotiation process that we put in place to bring them home.

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