Press Releases

Subcommittee Investigates Dangers of Ransom Payments to Iran


Washington, September 8, 2016 -

WASHINGTON -- The Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing Thursday on the Obama Administration’s decision to pay $1.7 billion to Iran in cash, even as senior Justice Department officials warned that Iran would see the payment as ransom for four Americans being held prisoners by the regime that the U.S. labels the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism.

Originally believed to be a $400 million cash payment to Iran, it was revealed earlier this week that the Obama Administration made two additional cash payments totaling $1.3 billion to Iran.

“This new revelation raises additional questions and underscores the need for Administration officials to answer them,” said Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), Chairman of the Subcommittee.  “In an effort to corroborate the Administration’s claims, this committee requested records related from Treasury and the Department of Justice more than a month ago.  To date, the self-proclaimed ‘most transparent Administration in history’ has failed to provide any documents.  The [Administration] witnesses before us today only agreed to appear after the threat of subpoenas.”

Key Takeaway from the Hearing:

  • Cash payments to Iran raise concerns over how that money is spent.  The Obama Administration’s payment to Iran was structured in a way that makes it easy for the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism to move the money anywhere it wants.
  • The Obama Administration is not being honest with the American people about its payment to Iran. Despite President Obama’s claim that “we do not pay ransom for hostages,” the State Department admitted the cash payment to Iran and the release of American hostages were linked. 
  • The State Department’s admission that this money was ransom intensifies the need for Congress to fully investigate this matter because the Administration’s actions put Americans at risk.  As President Obama himself said, America had a longstanding policy against paying ransom “precisely because if we did we’d start encouraging Americans to be targeted.”

Additional Topline Quotes from Witnesses:

“The $1.7 billion payment was troubling in large part because, in providing funds to Iran—including cash—without controls on how Iran would use that money, we allowed the country to disburse these funds to the Iranian military and other nefarious actors…Because of the particular nature of this payment, Iran believed this to be a ransom and consequently may be more inclined to seize Americans in the future.” - Eric B. Lorber, Senior Associate, Financial Integrity Network

“It is bad enough that not only Iranian officials but also other rogue regimes and terrorists groups can conclude that the United States is susceptible to blackmail and that its condemnation of ransom payments is only rhetorical. That the Obama administration blessed a cash payment and allowed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to take possession of it augments the possibility that it will be used to catalyze terrorism across the globe and blinds the intelligence community and Treasury analysts who have dedicated their careers to keeping America safe.”  - Michael Rubin, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

“Just recently, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, ‘In order to secure our population, our country and our future we have to increase our offensive capabilities as well as our defensive capabilities.’ Billions of dollars in cash, which is easier to hide, exchange and launder, and more difficult to trace, would go a long way in helping the supreme leader realize that goal.” - Mr. Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director, Foundation for Defense of Democracies


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