The U.S. paid Iran an additional $1.3 billion in the 19 days after an original, controversial $400 million payment was made to the Islamic Republic, congressional officials briefed by the Treasury and Justice departments told The Wall Street Journal. The payments, the first of which was reportedly used to leverage for the release of American prisoners held by Iran, were transferred through Europe and date back to a 1979 failed arms deal. Like the initial $400 million payment on Jan. 17, the subsequent $1.3 billion was paid in cash deliveries of Swiss francs, euros, and other foreign currencies.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of paying "ransom" to Tehran to secure the release of the detained prisoners, a charge President Obama has denied. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced legislation Tuesday that would prevent payments to Iran in the future as well as force Iran to return billions in reparations for terrorist attacks planned or sponsored by the government.
The U.S. owed Iran the $400 million due to an incident from the early 1980s, when Iran's Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi paid the Pentagon for airplane parts that were never delivered due to the Islamic revolution. Obama administration officials were worried the U.S. would lose the international court proceedings over the payment at the Hague, The Wall Street Journal reports, a decision that could have required the U.S. to owe as much as $10 billion due to interest; that concern is what apparently moved the Obama administration to make the $1.7 billion total payment. Rubio and other Republicans believe the U.S. should not pay the initial $400 million and have threatened to block the Treasury Department from delivering the money, proposing to instead keep the cash as reparations for victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism.
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