New Report Links Timing of U.S. Release of Funds, Iranian Release of Prisoners

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Jason Rezaian, one of the American prisoners released by Iran in January 2016.
Jason Rezaian, one of the American prisoners released by Iran in January 2016.Credit: AP

A The Wall Street Journal has released new details on Thursday linking the timing of the release of three Americans from Iranian captivity and the delivery of $400 million in foreign currency to Iran in January.

“Our top priority was getting the Americans home,” said a U.S. official, according to the Wall Street Journal. Officials briefed on the exchange said that Iranian officials in Geneva were not permitted to take possession of the $400 million until the Americans were in the air.

Republicans have portrayed the delivery as ransom for the American prisoners, a charge the Obama administration has flatly denied.

The United States and Iran in January concluded a $1.7 billion settlement on the heels of the nuclear deal regarding $400 million the Shah of Iran had deposited in a Pentagon trust fund in 1979 for military equipment, which was never delivered due to the Islamic Revolution. The funds had remained frozen until the nuclear deal enabled their release. The amount reflects the principle plus interest.

The Wall Street Journal cites one of the prisoners, Pastor Saeed Abedini, who said that he had heard from a senior Iranian intelligence official that the departure of the prisoners was contingent on the fate of a second airplane.

Officials from the U.S. State Department deny that the delay in the plane's departure had anything to do with another plane or the $400 million. Rather, they attribute the delay to efforts to locate the wife and mother of another American prisoner, Jason Rezaian, and to make sure they also would be allowed to board the Swiss plane.

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