Politics & Government

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger criticizes $400 million U.S. payment to Iran

dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger wants Secretary of State John Kerry to provide a written explanation for why the Obama administration sent $400 million to Iran the same month that the country returned to the United States four imprisoned Americans.

The delivery of money and public return of prisoners took place in January. The Wall Street Journal reported the close proximity between the two exchanges early Wednesday. That money was part of a $1.7 billion deal between United States and Iran officials during the 2015 nuclear weapons agreement, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during a press briefing later that day.

“This $400 million is actually money that the Iranians had paid into a U.S. account in 1979 as part of a transaction to procure military equipment,” Earnest said. “That military equipment as it relates to this $400 million was not provided to the Iranians in 1979 because the Shah of Iran was overthrown.”

Pittenger said in his letter to Kerry that he doesn’t believe the White House explanation.

“As you understand, when two governments engage in high profile non-proliferation negotiations or discuss the release of detained prisoners, every action taken by both governments is strategically planned and scrutinized. With so much at stake, it is highly dubious that simple coincidences may occur,” Pittenger said. “The administration has claimed that the $400 million was payment for a 1979 arms deal settlement, however the timing of the payment is undoubtedly suspect.”

“Either the State Department is absolutely careless about the ramifications of spending $400 million in cash to Iran during a prisoner release, or U.S. officials purposefully used this payment to entice the release of prisoners. Both scenarios are equally unacceptable.”

Additionally, Iran remains a state-sponsor of terror designated by the State Department, which is another concern worth monitoring, Pittenger said.

United States foreign policy towards Iran appears to be a rudderless, feckless effort to justify the promoted outcome of the Iran deal. Members of Congress have every reason to question and doubt the integrity of the process and the agreement, as there is every appearance of deception and subterfuge in communicating to the American people.

Rep. Robert Pittenger

Earnest said that while it is possible that some of the money might make its way into the hands of terror regimes, U.S. analysis has so far shown that Iran is spending the money on improving its economic condition.

Lesley Clark contributed to this report.

Maggie Ybarra, 202-383-6048, @MolotovFlicker

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