Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Friday that President Barack Obama "blatantly misled the American people" and "recklessly ignored our nation's standard against paying ransom for hostages" after it was revealed that America gave Iran $400 million only after Tehran released Americans detained in the Middle Eastern country. But the State Department denied there was any quid pro quo or ransom, saying that negotiations over the detainees and the $400 million payment were "separate" talks independent of each other.
Shelby called the exchange an "outrageous action" that "sets a dangerous precedent."
State Department spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said Washington withheld the $400 million, which was part of a long-running dispute between the two countries in The Hague , "as leverage" until Iran released the American prisoners. Kirby said it was a "sound decision" that didn't warrant criticism, arguing that Iran was set to receive the $400 million anyway.
"There was a negotiation inside The Hague tribunal that they were going to recover the $400 million principal and then some interest that we negotiated, which saved the taxpayers a lot of money. That process was moving forward and it was moving forward on an independent track," he told reporters on Thursday. "Separately and distinctly, we were also in talks with them about getting our Americans back. That was also done by a different team and moving forward. These two tracks came together in a very finite period of time. And it would have been – given the fact that Iran hadn't proved completely trustworthy in the past, it would have been imprudent and irresponsible for us to not – since we knew this payment was coming and coming soon, to not hold it up until we made sure we had our Americans out."