According to the report in Nasdaq, concerns were raised by John Carlin, a Senate-confirmed administration appointee, when the State Department notified Justice officials of its plan to deliver to Iran a planeful of cash, saying it would be viewed as a ransom payment. A number of other high-ranking Justice officials also voiced concerns as the negotiations proceeded.
“The U.S. paid Iran $400 million in cash on Jan. 17 as part of a larger $1.7 billion settlement of a failed 1979 arms deal between the U.S. and Iran that was announced that day. Also on that day, Iran released four detained Americans in exchange for the U.S.’s releasing from prison—or dropping charges against—Iranians charged with violating sanctions laws. U.S. officials have said the swap was agreed upon in separate talks.” reports the Nasdaq.
Mr. Carlin is one of the highest-profile figures at the department. He is the head of the division in charge of counterterrorism and intelligence.
The alarms raised by Mr. Carlin and others shows how much pushback the State Department proposal provoked.
The Nasdaq report continues, “Since The Wall Street Journal earlier this month reported details of the cash shipment—stacks of euros, Swiss francs and other currencies stacked on wooden pallets—and the Justice Department officials’ objections, administration officials have defended the payment.”
At a press conference last week, President Barack Obama described the controversy as the “manufacturing of outrage in a story that we disclosed in January,” when the U.S. settled a number of outstanding issues with Iran. President Obama added, “We do not pay ransom for hostages.”
However, the president didn’t mention the objections raised by his own appointees “that the timing of the cash payment would look like ransom.”
“White House and State Department officials ultimately decided to proceed with the $400 million cash payment despite the Justice officials’ objections.
A Justice Department spokesman has said the agency ‘fully supported the ultimate outcome of the administration’s resolution of several issues with Iran,’ including the settlement of the long-running arms case, ‘as well as the return of U.S. citizens detained in Iran.’ The department has declined to discuss interagency deliberations,” according to the Nasdaq report.
The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), asked the Justice Department last week to identify the officials in the department who objected to the payment. The department hasn’t yet responded.