Congress asking questions about U.S. payoff to Iran

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Congress is investigating the Obama administration’s $1.7 billion payment to Iran that many observers say was “ransom” for the release of five U.S. hostages.

While the White House insists the payment to Iran was to settle a decades-old financial dispute, lawmakers have questioned the timing of the payment, which was made just after confirmation that three of the American hostages had left Iranian airspace.

Sen. Jerry Moran
Sen. Jerry Moran

“Rather than incentivize state-sponsored kidnapping, the administration should remind the government of Iran that terror and hostage taking are not for-profit enterprises,” Sen. Jerry Moran, Kansas Republican, said.

Moran has introduced legislation in the Senate that would limit President Barack Obama’s ability to transfer funds to Iran.

“The United States should not be funding governments that openly violate human rights, proudly disregard U.N. Security Council resolutions and call for the destruction of America and its allies,” Moran said.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, Kansas Republican, is seeking an investigation into the payment, while the House Foreign Affairs Committee has asked congressional researchers to look into the matter.

The Obama administration claimed the $1.7 billion payment included $400 million to settle a dispute dating back to before the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, and some $1.3 billion in interest.

“There was no bribe, there was no ransom, there was nothing paid to secure the return of these Americans who were, by the way, not spies,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Obama said the settlement “could save us billions of dollars that could have been pursued by Iran. So there was no benefit to the United States in dragging this out. With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well.”