Remember back in January the prisoner swap between the U.S. and Iran? When we traded seven Iranian criminals and removed 14 more from an Interpol “most wanted” list for four Americans being held illegally by the Iranian regime? Coincidently, the U.S. loaded $400 million in cash in an unmarked cargo plane for delivery to Iran—a state that sponsors terrorism.
The explanation from the White House is that the money was not ransom payment, but actually belonged to Iran. According to Mr. Obama, “We do not pay ransom for hostages. We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future, precisely because if we did we’d start encouraging Americans to be targeted.” How then does Mr. Obama explain the taking of three more American hostages by Iran since those January payments? Is this, as the WSJ asks, just an unhappy coincidence?
Especially, why was the delivery in cash in an unmarked cargo plane? If the U.S. had simply transferred the $400 million through conventional banking transmission to Tehran, it would have allowed the U.S. to keep track to some extent of how the money was spent, explains Michael B. Mukasey, former U.S. attorney general, in the WSJ.
The apparent explanation isn’t pretty. There is principally one entity within the Iranian government that has need of untraceable funds. That entity is the Quds Force—the branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps focused particularly on furthering the regime’s goals world-wide by supporting and conducting terrorism. This is the entity, for example, that was tied to the foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., in 2011, as well as to the successful plot to blow up a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994.
The Obama administration insists that the U.S. was not paying ransom money to the Iran—that, instead, it was smart diplomacy that saved taxpayers “potentially billions” more if the arbitration over the matter hadn’t gone the right way. But as Jonah Goldberg wonders in NRO, why, if it was such an innocent money-saving maneuver, was it kept secret from the American people? “… not only have we given the Iranians untraceable walking-around money to give to its terrorist proxies, we’ve also given them every incentive to kidnap more Americans — which is exactly what they’ve been doing.”
What we have here, continues Mr. Mukasey, is “the spectacle of the state engaging in conduct that would expose a private citizen to the risk of jail.”
Considering that the government exists both to serve and to teach us, perhaps it would not be asking too much to demand an explanation: Precisely what legitimate interest of the U.S. was furthered by loading $400 million in cash in an unmarked cargo plane and delivering it to a state sponsor of terrorism?
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