President Barack Obama has pushed back hard against criticism that the US paid Iran $400 million in ransom to secure the freedom of Americans being held hostage by it.
He told reporters on Thursday the US doesn’t pay ransom as a matter of policy and the $400 million paid to Tehran was part of $1.7 billion of Iran’s money frozen in America.
“This wasn’t some nefarious deal,” he said. These payments were announced months ago in January. He went on to slam criticism of it by Republicans as “manufacturing of outrage”.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump went on to recount for his supporters at a rally a video he said he had seen of how this money was handed over - all fiction, which he has since disavowed.
Obama said the only new development in this was the handing over of the money in cash, and in foreign currencies as the US has no banking ties with Iran.
“And it is not at all clear to me why it is that cash, as opposed to a check or a wire transfer, has made this into a new story. Maybe because it kind of feels like some spy novel or some crime novel because cash was exchanged,” the president said.
The timing of the transfer, which some people found suspicious, was dictated by legal advice that waiting longer would have sent the owed sum into billions.