The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the transfer of $400 million in cash for Iran in January coincided with not only the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal but with the release of American detainees as well. The cash came not from sanctions relief, but from the settlement of a decades-old dispute over cancelled arms shipments in the 1970s.
The Journal says the money was delivered via cargo plane:
Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, according to these officials. The U.S. procured the money from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland, they said.
Although the administration announced the settlement at the time, including the amount of $400 million, the timing and details of the delivery were not publicly revealed until now. In fact, the administration downplayed the immediate benefits that Iran would enjoy. When the State Department was pushing for the Iran deal in September 2015, a State official pooh-poohed the idea that Iran would get a "big suitcase full of cash."
"[T]here's a common misperception that on implementation day a big suitcase full of cash shows up in Tehran and all of a sudden they have all this money, which I think is really – does a disservice to what actually is going to happen," said the anonymous official.
Just days before the deal was implemented, State Department spokesman John Kirby remarked that "nobody is handing [Iran] some sort of windfall of cash", though he was specifically addressing sanctions relief and not the arms dispute settlement. Administration officials on a conference call on January 17 also skirted the issue of the cash delivery when describing the timing of the Iran deal, the dispute settlement, and the Americans' release.
Some Republican lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, are accusing the Obama administration of trading hostages for cash.