If this event and subject even needs to be explained, then we have more basis problems.
The Obama Administration’s handling of the Iran ransom-for-hostages story brings to mind the classic Chico Marx line in the movie “Duck Soup”: “Who are you going to believe— me or your own eyes?”
After everyone in the Administration from President Obama on down denied that a $400 million cash payment to Iran had anything to do with the same-day release of four American hostages, the State Department on Thursday said your own eyes had it right the first time.
While still not using the R-word, State Department spokesman John Kirby said of the two events: “We of course wanted to seek maximum leverage in this case as these two things came together at the same time.”
Credit here goes to Wall Street Journal reporters Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee, who on Aug. 3 broke the story of the $400 million payment to Iran coincident with the hostage release in January. Despite Mr. Obama himself trying to knock down the Journal’s story by asserting, “we do not pay ransom for hostages,” the reporters this week established the linkage.
U.S. officials acknowledged to the Journal that they wouldn’t allow a plane from Iran Air, loaded with pallets of cash, to take off from a runway in Geneva until the hostages’ plane in Tehran was “wheels up.” State’s Mr. Kirby was finally obliged to admit this publicly.
One may reasonably ask: Why did the Obama Administration persist with such an obviously preposterous cover story? Mr. Obama offered one honest answer amid his original denial. We didn’t pay a ransom, the President said, “precisely because if we did we’d start encouraging Americans to be targeted.”
There’s another reason. Mr. Obama didn’t want to sully what he obviously considers the crowning foreign-policy achievement of his Presidency with an admission that a grubby payoff to Iran’s mullahs is what got it done. Coming clearer by the day is the reality that Mr. Obama in fact ransomed his second term’s entire foreign policy to getting the nuclear deal, which along with lifting sanctions was supposed to be the incentive for Iran to help stabilize the Middle East. Iran had its own ideas about that.
On Tuesday the Russian foreign ministry ostentatiously announced that four of its Tu-22M3 bombers had flown from an Iranian airfield to hit anti-Assad forces in three Syrian provinces. The long-range bombers then returned to Russia.
Russia doesn’t need the Iranian air base to bomb Syria. Russia and Iran were making a political point about their budding alliance in the Middle East. They did this, moreover, after persuading Secretary of State John Kerry to persuade Mr. Obama to share with Russia U.S. intelligence on bombing targets in Syria. Mr. Obama sided with Mr. Kerry despite Pentagon objections. Oh, and Vladimir Putin is now sending tens of thousands of Russian soldiers to newly built installations near the border with Ukraine. Perhaps this is the Russian’s way of thanking Mr. Kerry for the intel.
Mr. Obama, meanwhile, spent August denying that a ransom was a ransom. Since the January “leverage” moment, Iran has taken three more Americans as hostage and is now demanding the return of $2 billion in funds that U.S. courts have ordered held for the victims of Iranian- sponsored terrorism. The eyes of the world can simply stare.