Since the revelation that the Obama Administration forked over $400 million to Iran in exchange for right around the time American hostages were released, speculation that the cash was a ransom payment has dogged the administration and the Justice Department.

Timing is everything, especially in determining what really went down.

New reports suggest the $400 million was held until after the Americans were released from Iranian custody, making the whole ordeal look an awful lot like a ransom payment and subsequent prisoner release. The Obama Administration denied the payment was ransom, but said it was part of $1.7 billion settlement from 1979.

From the WSJ:

U.S. officials wouldn’t let Iranians take control of the money until a Swiss Air Force plane carrying three freed Americans departed from Tehran on Jan. 17, the officials said. Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash back from a Geneva airport that day, according to the accounts.

President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials have said the payment didn’t amount to ransom, because the money was owed by the U.S. to Iran as part of a longstanding dispute linked to a failed arms deal from the 1970s. U.S. officials have said that the prisoner release and cash transfer took place through two separate diplomatic channels.

But the handling of the payment and its connection to the release of the Americans have raised questions among lawmakers and administration critics.

The use of an Iranian cargo plane to move pallets filled with $400 million brings clarity to one of the mysteries surrounding the cash delivery to Iran first reported by The Wall Street Journal this month. Administration officials have refused to publicly disclose how and when the cash transfer authorized by Mr. Obama took place.

Executives from Iran’s flagship carrier, Iran Air, organized the round-trip flight from Tehran to Geneva where the cash—euros and Swiss francs and other currencies stacked on shipping pallets—was loaded onto the aircraft, these people said.

“Our top priority was getting the Americans home,” said a U.S. official.

Once the Americans were “wheels up” on the morning of Jan. 17, Iranian officials in Geneva were allowed to take custody of the $400 million in currency, according to officials briefed on the exchange.

BUT IT’S NOT A RANSOM PAYMENT, OK?!

Mary blogged earlier this month:

President Barack Obama said the payment “represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.”

Congress is planning to investigate the swap when it reconvenes in September.

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