The Drudge Report, Fox News, Donald Trump, and a host of other right-wing institutions are in a tizzy today over a report in the Wall Street Journalthat the United States government sent a secret plane stuffed with $400 million in Swiss francs and euros directly to Tehran back in January, at precisely the same time Iran agreed to release four American detainees. “Obama Paid $400M ‘Ransom’ to Iran,” is how the New York Post is playing the story. Trump himself is calling it a “scandal.” What people seem to be missing is the fact that, while the Journal is the first to report that the payment was made in cash, literally everything else about the story—the money, the prisoner release, the quid pro quo allegations—was reported back in January.
First, a little backstory to explain how we got to this point: Earlier this year, the United States entered into an agreement with the Iranian government aimed at freezing Iran’s nuclear weapons program. As part of a whole bunch of peripheral issues surrounding that deal, there was a matter of four American citizens that were being detained in Iran on rather dubious charges, as well as $1.7 billion that Iran was demanding from the U.S. in restitution for an arms deal that went south back in the 1970s.
Back then, the U.S. and the government of the Shah agreed on a $400 million deal for fighter jets. The Shah delivered the money, but then he was deposed in the Iranian Revolution of 1979, so the Americans never delivered the jets. The American government did, however, hang on to the cash.
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