A $400 million dollar payment made by the United States to the Iranian government in January that essentially crossed paths with a plane carrying four freed U.S. hostages out of the country, is raising questions among Republican party leaders, some of whom are accusing the Obama administration of paying ransom for hostages.
But their theory about the payment, which was brought to light by a Wall Street Journal report published Wednesday, has drawn swift rebukes from top Democrats who claim that the transaction was made above-board and was meant to settle a decades-old financial disagreement between the two nations.
During a press conference on Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest called Republican's anger "an indication of just how badly opponents of the Iran deal are struggling to justify their opposition to a successful deal that has prevented and continues to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon."
Earnest also clarified several key points of the WSJ report on Wednesday, including the fact that the money was delivered on "wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies" via an "unmarked cargo plane," saying that the key reason was that the U.S. does not have a banking relationship with Iran.
The press secretary went on to confirmed in no uncertain terms that the payment had in no way been in violation of the United States' policy against paying ransom money for hostages, maintaining that it was part of the $1.7 billion settlement payment announced publicly by the State Department on Jan. 17.
According to NBC News, the settlement was reached during the same weekend that the hostages were freed, two policy milestones which Secretary of State John Kerry said "were not directly related," but suggested the diplomatic conversations involved might have helped expedite the hostage release process.
The $1.7 billion settlement agreement reached in January was for an outstanding repayment of an arms deal between the U.S. and Iran that went awry in 1979, when Iran had attempted to purchase American fighter jets that were never received.