Trump off base on Clinton and Iran payment

The Associated Press reports: The $400 million payment [to Iran reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday] — plus $1.3 billion in interest to be paid later — is a separate issue from the Iran nuclear deal that Clinton initiated. The process that resulted in the payout started decades before she became secretary of state.

In the late 1970s the Iranian government, under the U.S.-backed shah, paid the United States $400 million for military equipment. The equipment was never delivered because in 1979, his government was overthrown, revolutionaries took American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran were severed.

In 1981, the United States and Iran agreed to set up a commission at The Hague that would rule on claims by each country for property and assets held by the other. Iran’s claim for return of the equipment payment was among many that had been tied up in litigation before the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, and interest the U.S. owed for holding the money for so long was growing.

Litigation over these claims has continued intermittently for 35 years, with some being settled and others going to the tribunal for judgment. All private U.S. claims before the tribunal have been resolved, with Iran paying more than $2.5 billion to American people and businesses. Some claims remain unresolved.

As secretary of state, Clinton did initiate secret talks with Iran over its nuclear program. After John Kerry succeeded her on Feb. 1, 2013, those secret contacts grew into 18 months of formal negotiations that culminated in the July 2015 nuclear deal.

U.S. officials had expected a ruling on the Iranian claim from the tribunal any time, and feared a ruling that would have made the interest payments much higher. As the nuclear talks progressed, the separate, intermittent talks on the military-equipment claim continued.

On Jan. 17, a day after the nuclear deal was implemented, the United States and Iran announced they had settled the claim, with the U.S. agreeing to pay the $400 million principal along with $1.3 billion in interest. Administration statements at the time made clear that the principal and the interest would be paid separately, but did not specify how the money would be delivered.

Trump is correct that the $400 million was paid in cash and flown to Tehran on a cargo plane. But litigation on the Iranian claim preceded Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state by decades and heated up only after she left the job. [Continue reading…]

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