$400 Million: The Partial Price of Peace?

Hundreds (RGBStock)

When the US government sends $400 million in cash, stacked on pallets, to Iran on the same day the Iranian government releases four imprisoned Americans, it looks an awful lot like ransom.

On the other hand, when the US government decides to keep $400 million sent to it by the Iranian government pursuant to an arms deal  for 35 years without ever shipping the arms, it looks an awful lot like stealing.

And when the US government reaches a settlement to finally pay back that money with interest, it looks an awful lot like  justice.

Yes, the simultaneity of payment and release looks pretty damning on both ends.

On the other hand, it seems very understandable from both ends.

The Iranians have had good reason to distrust the US government for more than 60 years, ever since the US overthrew their elected government and saddled them with a US-approved dictator, then stole their money when they overthrew that dictator.  As often as the US has screwed them, why would they trust the US to repay them absent some kind of leverage?

President Obama, on the other hand, wanted to secure the return of those prisoners, and he seems to genuinely want to improve US relations with Iran after more than three decades of cold (and sometimes not so cold) war.  Coughing up cash that the US owed to Iran anyway probably looked like a good way to make progress on both of those fronts.

Yeah, I guess it looks kind of bad. But you know, I don’t have any heartburn over it. And I find it hard to give much credence to Republican temper tantrums over the whole thing.

I don’t recall Republicans complaining about the Iranians timing their release of hostages from the US embassy in Tehran to coincide with the inauguration of a Republican president (some people even believe that that Republican’s running mate negotiated a secret deal with the Iranians to stretch the matter and create that coincidence).

I do recall Republicans defending that same president when he was discovered to have traded arms to — not to merely have returned money to, but to have intentionally armed — Iran in return for assistance in achieving the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by Iran’s Hezbollah allies.

It seems to me that all is well here, election year partisan bluster notwithstanding. Peace gets messy now and again, but it beats the alternative.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Also published on Medium.

  • anibanib

    $400 million, didnt realise it was in America and American Money, from what I have read and remember, this Money and many many 100s of millions more is lying in banks across the World, actually Iranian funds whic were frozen in banks in Holland and Switzerland etc etc……….frozen for almost 40 years……….and intodaus modern World, I hardly Think that pallets of dollar bills would be sent by plane………all it needs are a few clicks on a computer

    • It wasn’t in American money — that would have been illegal. It was in various foreign currencies.

      The Iranians wanted cash, not suspect electronic transactions.

      • Iran has been banned and sanctioned for so long that I imagine that the US government couldn’t make an electronic funds transfer to Iran even if they were inclined to or ordered to do so by a court.

        • anibanib

          The facts are that it is Holland and Switzerland who are doing the fund transfer not the USA……the frozen funds were in their banks not the USAs

          • “The currency shipped to Iran in the dead of night drew attention from presidential candidate Donald Trump this week, who on Friday appeared to walk back an earlier assertion that he had seen a payment being delivered. But that money was owed to the Islamic Republic since 1979, the year the U.S. froze all the Iranian funds in American banks …” — Time magazine, 08/05/16

            N.B. the final four words there.

          • anibanib

            And many other banks in Europé, the USA using her big whip to subdue countries that Think they are independent……..thankfully we dont fall into that category, we have and Always have had good trade relations with IRAN

          • Yes, absolutely — the US throws its weight around to try and bully other countries into following its lead on economic sanctions and such. Not just with Iran since the revolution, but with Cuba since its revolution, Russia right up to this very moment, etc.

            My personal perception of why the US went ahead and supported the P5+1 nuclear accord with Iran was that Obama realized the accord was going to happen whether the US was involved or not — other countries were tired of denying themselves profitable economic relations with Iran just to please the US. So Obama could be part of it, or the US could lose face by being seen as no longer exercising so much control over its allies.

      • anibanib

        “”The Iranians wanted cash, not suspect electronic transactions””………..do you have a link to prove that or are you…….a moderator on this website……… making things up

        • From the news account I link to:

          “US officials said cash had to be flown in because existing US sanctions ban American dollars from being used in a transaction with Iran and because Iran could not access the global financial system due to international sanctions it was under at the time.”

          That the Iranians preferred currency to bits on a hard drive is speculation on my part.

          And I’m free to speculate, as you are. Not sure why you’re hostile to the author of the article talking about the article, or why you think me being a moderator of a web site I started and operate would constitute evidence that I’m “making things up.”

          • anibanib

            Jusy because I criticise a comment, makes me “HOSTILE”…….or doyou javeit in for foreign comments………as the moderator, YOU can see where I post from……but its OK, I get it all the time on US forums………Always being told I dont belong, and to pack my Camel and go back to Africa…..typical small minded gullible Yanks…………..and……….”making things up”………..how am I to know that……..I do know the drill on small forums like this one………..2 wrong words and I get banned……….with no explanation whatsoever

          • If you get banned from this site you’ll have the honor of being the first person ever banned from it. And so far I’m not seeing any reason to.

          • anibanib


          • jjones

            Can’t figure out why I was banned. Any explanation?

          • If you’re commenting here, you obviously weren’t. Also, so far as I know, I’ve never heard of you.

      • anibanib

        During this long long time span of almost 4 decades, many western countries have still had trade agreements with Iran……….it is not the USA who decides who can and who cant trade with Iran