‘Iransom’: Sorry, Mr. President, It’s a Hard Story to Let Go
FlaglerLive | August 9, 2016
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.
“(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 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.