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‘Iransom’: Sorry, Mr. President, It’s a Hard Story to Let Go

| August 9, 2016

iransom cash ransom nancy smith

Did the cash make it out? (White House)

By Nancy Smith

Until I saw the latest copy of The American Spectator, I was starting to feel like the only soul in America who couldn’t swallow President Barack Obama’s almost sneering dismissal of the $400-million-for-hostages scandal.

Unless I missed it on one of the Sunday TV news programs, it’s dead in the water. Over.

I’ve thought about the ransom scandal some part of every day since the Wall Street Journal first reported Obama secured the release of four Americans held hostage by the Iranians by flying in $400 million in cash, “grease-money” to buy them back. I already wrote about it once; but now I want you to see how much more The American Spectator (TAS) adds to the story, as it begs Americans to make sure this never happens again.

The magazine calls its editorial simply, “Iransom”. The subheadline: “How sad a spectacle to see Americans defending that shameful $400 million tribute to Iran.”

Thank you, colleagues. My thought exactly. Iranian money the U.S. has been holding since 1979 and we absolutely had to return $400 million of it the same day American hostages are released? If we were “only returning Iran’s own money” — at the very least, have we no sense of political optics? The world watches what we do and how we do it.

Said TAS, “Apparently it was so much of a quid pro quo that perhaps the most famous of the four, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, told the Fox Business Network Thursday that he and the others were made to wait at an airport for hours before release and when they asked about what the holdup to their release was, it was clearly the arrival of the money.”

Abedini told his story to FBN’s Trish Regan: “[T]hey told us you’re going to be there for 20 minutes,” he recounted. “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.”

Of course, the plane eventually turned up, and when it did, reports say it contained wooden pallets of paper currency — Swiss francs, Euros, and other notes totaling $400 million. The WSJ reported the federal government got the cash from the central banks in the Netherlands and Switzerland, then flew it into Tehran — “clearly to satisfy a condition of the release of Abedini and the others.”

Certainly it would have been a lot easier for the federal government to simply wire the money. If nothing else, reasons TAS, there would be no excuse to prolong the agony of the hostages at the airport.

The TAS editorial also explains why that didn’t happen by quoting an Andy McCarthy story from the National Review:

“Obama has long taken the view that the federal law making it a felony to provide material support to terrorism does not apply to the enormous aid and comfort he has provided to our Iranian enemy, the world’s leading state sponsor of anti-American jihadist terror,” writes McCarthy.

Click On:

“(Obama) evidently had qualms, however, about laws denying Iran access to the U.S. financial system, which bar transactions with Iran in U.S. dollars. To skirt these, the State Department recruited the Swiss and Dutch governments into Obama’s conspiracy. The equivalent of 400 million in U.S. dollars was transferred to their central banks in exchange for hard currency. The piles of euros and francs were then boxed up and flown to Tehran,” said the National Review writer.

The American Spectator absolutely gets it. And shreds it.

“There is simply no plausible way to deny that McCarthy is correct Obama provided material support to terrorism by transferring that $400 million to Iran,” says the “Iransom” editorial. “If nothing else, that ransom money paved the way for the Iranians to snatch more Americans in hopes of another big payday from Stupid Uncle Sam. If you don’t agree, then tell that to the family of Baquer Namazi, an 80-year old diplomat who was kidnapped by the Iranians in February, after that ransom was paid. Namazi’s son, Siamak, an energy executive, had already been snatched last October.

“Or tell it to the crew of the two swiftboats the Iranians snatched in the Persian Gulf back in the spring; we haven’t been told what was given to the Iranians in return for their release following the humiliation they were subjected to.”

The magazine points to a time when paying ransom to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and an avowed American enemy without notice to or permission of Congress, made in a way skirting U.S. law and outside the view of the American people, “would have been viewed as treason, and those carrying it out would have been subject to a trial and a potential hanging.”

There was a time, the editorial recalls. “Apparently, that time has passed.”

Now the president tells us this is “old news” because it happened months ago. As I said earlier, we’re told this money was actually Iran’s — assets frozen by America during hostilities decades in the past — and that it wasn’t ransom because it was an installment on a $1.7 billion settlement the U.S. was supposed to pay Iran over those frozen assets. The timing was just coincidence, the president tells us.

Again TAS writes, “Tell that last bit to Abedini, who couldn’t board a plane out of Mehrabad Airport in Tehran until the money came in. Tell it to the Iranians, who insisted on the installment arriving before boarding that plane. And tell it to the mullahs who specifically claimed it as ransom, before snatching more Americans.”

During the last couple of weeks I’ve been monitoring network news coverage of the $400 million payment to Iran. It’s incredible how little time each of the networks spent on it. CNN particularly surprised me. Ever since the Democratic National Convention ended, the network has done its best to skip over or brush off analysis of ransom allegations, and instead help Barack Obama polish his legacy.

In the last month CNN pundits spent more time talking about what they believed was a Jewish star deliberately emblazoned on a Donald Trump campaign mailer (and it was clear they believed it was a deliberate act of bigotry), and more time discussing Melania Trump “plagiarizing” part of Michele Obama’s 2008 speech, than they ever did delving into the terrible precedent set by President Obama on Jan. 17. As the American Spectator points out, “The refusal to pay ransom to jihadist bandits is what birthed the United States Marine Corps well more than 200 years ago, and yet now that refusal has been turned on its head.”

The scandal — if there ever was one in their eyes — is over for the mainstream media. We asked, the president answered. Case closed.

Where, asks TAS, is the American interest served here? “Sure, Abedini is home, and we can all be glad about that. But his and the others’ freedom has a bitter taste if it means the loss of père and fils Namazi, or dead Jews in Israel, Christians in Belgium, or even Muslims in Turkey thanks to Iranian-funded jihadist terror that $400 million will surely fuel.”

It’s a strong editorial these folks write, and frankly, I think it’s 100 percent on target.

“This must be punished by the American people,” the piece concludes. “The laws bent and broken in this depraved bargain, disguised as a ministerial exchange, must be defended against those who perpetrated it. Our honor and national security are at stake.”

Oh, yes, and another bristling point The American Spectator makes: President Obama has no business judging Donald Trump’s qualifications for president when, really, we should begin talking about what the personal consequences should be to Obama and his team for what they have done here.

nancy smith sunshine state news columnistNancy Smith is the editor of Sunshine State News. She started her career at the Daily Mirror and The Observer in London before spending 28 years at The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News as managing editor and associate editor. She was president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors in the mid-1990s. Reach her by email here, or follow her on twitter at @NancyLBSmith.

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16 Responses for “‘Iransom’: Sorry, Mr. President, It’s a Hard Story to Let Go”

  1. daveT says:

    ransom money paid to terrorist. And remember the saying all Presidents before Obama, THE US does not negotiate with terrorist. Well Obama not only negotiated and paid the money which will set a presidence down the road. And lets not forget the “DEAL”. which removed the oil and financial sanctions on Iran and as much as freed up $100 billion of its frozen assets. All of this to stop IRAN from making the BOMB. But since this did not get approved by Congress, Iran is not legally bound to do anything. Still a terrorist supporting country that hates the US>

  2. Bill White says:

    I watched the whole press conference where President Obama was asked about the money. He spent the next couple of minutes berating the reporters for asking such a stupid question. He knows best and don’t question his judgment. I have to say; that attitude has been a cornerstone of this administration and works well to get the press to back off. Its an embarrassment to watch the press and the public be made fools of in such a manner. I’m not surprised that Trump has a following. Its a shame that the press is so intimidated, no wonder young people don’t read the papers or follow the news.

  3. A Little Common Sense Please says:

    Maybe Iran just wanted the money to build a fence around their borders to keep all of those pesky Americans from coming in and becoming Iran’s hostages in the first place. You don’t really believe they would use that money to build a Nuclear Bomb do you?
    I went to college with some of the Iranian people (43 exactly) back when the Shah was still in power. If these people get “The Bomb”, they WILL use it on some country they hate or feel threatened by. Just pray they don’t get have a delivery system that will reach these United States.

  4. Common Sense says:

    The article above is a complete fabrication. Americans are not well served by this type of spin on actual facts.

    1. This was Iran’s money to begin with. How do you pay someone a ransom with their own money?
    2. The decision to give the money back by made by a court, not by the President.
    3. The return of the money had been announced months before.

    Look up the facts. Stop behaving like sheep.

  5. BlueJammer says:

    Great article, Ms. Smith. Watching Obama’s news conference was very much like watching Bill Clinton address the nation with “I didn’t have sex with that woman”, George Bush’s “Read my lips! ” on no new taxes, and Nixon’s infamous “I am not a crook!” All just another president and another lie.

    Our future doesn’t look promising.

  6. Ws says:

    I want wait to hear the words “Obama you’re fired”!!!

  7. Retired Cop Too says:

    Right wing partisan nonsense! Will you stop hating already? It’s even stated in article that this money was Iranian money! There is spin on both sides but come on, stop the nonsense already! If you could love 43 who got us into a war with lies then you could love 44!

  8. Outsider says:

    The only thing surprising about this article is the author’s alleged surprise the networks glossed over the story. They do that all day long for both Hillary and Obama. I find it unbelievable thwt this author claims to be a conservative yet only watches the networks and CNN.

  9. A.S.F. says:

    The Obama Administration has a lot of explaining to do to the families of Robert Levinson, James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Kyla Mueller. Every single one of those families have complained about the lack of feedback, follow through and assistance that they have received from the US government for their loved ones–three of whom died horribly at the hands of Islamic extremist terrorists and the other who was drafted by the CIA to fight the forces of terrorism and was subsequently abandoned, only to disappear off the face of the earth after falling into the hands of the Iranians. IT looks even worse that most of the captives who were freed by this “coincidental exchange” happened to be Iranian Americans and that most of them were traded for the freedom of Iranians who had been actively involved in previous Iranian attempts to secure materials for nuclear weapons development. Even Obama’s own Justice Department tried to discourage the State Department and the Obama Administration from perpetrating this latest debacle. And the cherry on top of the sundae is Obama’s own televised defense of himself when questioned by reporters, wherein he stated that Israel now supports the Iran Deal as both working and being a good thing. They most decidedly DON’T feel that way. And they have made that quite PUBLICLY clear. What happened to the Obama’s Administration’s vaunted promise of transparency? All he is doing is helping the Democrats lose the trust of the American people in a crucial election year. Oh, well, I guess his “legacy” is more important–at least, it is to him. And it has yet to be seen if even that cause will be well-served at the end of the day.

  10. Richard S> says:

    It looks like treason – feels like treason – and smells like treason.

    What more harm can Obama do before he is let out of office?

    I suspect he will find a way to declare martial law, suspend all elections and then declare himself President for Life – through his infamous ‘executive orders’.

    Wait and see.

  11. Sherry says:

    This article is nothing short of partisan politics!

    The release of Iranian “frozen funds” . . . THEIR MONEY. . . was announced way back in January!

    Here are the pertinent words from President Obama on Jan. 17th:

    “Now that Iran’s actions have been verified, it can begin to receive relief from certain nuclear sanctions and gain access to its own money that had been frozen. And perhaps most important of all, we’ve achieved this historic progress through diplomacy, without resorting to another war in the Middle East.

    I want to also point out that by working with Iran on this nuclear deal, we were better able to address other issues. When our sailors in the Persian Gulf accidentally strayed into Iranian waters that could have sparked a major international incident. Some folks here in Washington rushed to declare that it was the start of another hostage crisis. Instead, we worked directly with the Iranian government and secured the release of our sailors in less than 24 hours.

    This brings me to a second major development — several Americans unjustly detained by Iran are finally coming home. In some cases, these Americans faced years of continued detention. And I’ve met with some of their families. I’ve seen their anguish, how they ache for their sons and husbands. I gave these families my word — I made a vow — that we would do everything in our power to win the release of their loved ones. And we have been tireless. On the sidelines of the nuclear negotiations, our diplomats at the highest level, including Secretary Kerry, used every meeting to push Iran to release our Americans. I did so myself, in my conversation with President Rouhani. After the nuclear deal was completed, the discussions between our governments accelerated. Yesterday, these families finally got the news that they have been waiting for.”

  12. Common Sense says:

    Don’t bother Sherry. Trump’s uneducated followers don’t want to hear the facts. Whatever FAUX says, they will believe. Whatever lie Trump tells them, they will believe. They follow him like mindless sheep.

    If they checked out the facts they would know the whole “ransom” issue is non existent but they don’t want to
    hear facts.

  13. Richard S> says:

    “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies,” said Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi, commander of the Guard’s Basij militia, on state media.

    An Iranian General wouldn’t lie – would he?

  14. Anonymous says:

    Common Sense Says–Easy for you to say. I bet the timing doesn’t seem so random to the families of Robert Levinson, Kyla Mueller, James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

  15. Ben Hogarth says:

    You can’t “educate” those who spend the entirety of their lives, validating their preconceived notions… notions which have been molded by a mass media group for the better part of 30 years.

    What’s really sad is that Ms. Smith considers herself a journalist with integrity, yet her inability to fact-check the entire fallacy that was this “story” is just further proof that her products are not what we need to be consuming.

    But what a day it would be if the average American held “truth” in higher regard then their own “opinion.”

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