In a press conference Thursday afternoon, President Barack Obama dismissed the recent furor over a $400 million payment from the United States to Iran, saying that the settlement “wasn’t a secret” and affirming that the country doesn’t pay ransom for hostages.
“Some of you may recall we announced these payments in January, many months ago,” Obama said. “This wasn’t some nefarious deal.”
The payment was part of a settlement for a failed, decades-old arms deal, one of a “number of issues” that Obama said was resolved during the negotiation of the Iran nuclear deal. The payment stoked outrage Wednesday as Fox News played footage that showed American hostages arriving in Geneva in January, although Republican nominee Donald Trump seemed to think the footage was taken in Iran, according to The Washington Post.
“It was the assessment of our lawyers that we were now at a point where there was a significant litigation risk and we could end up costing ourselves billions of dollars,” the President said. “It was their advice and suggestion that we settle, and that’s what these payments represent.”
He went on to cite pessimistic predictions about the deal’s effectiveness, saying: “Why not have some of these folks who were predicting disaster say, you know what, this thing actually worked. Now that would be a shock. That would be impressive.”
“But of course that wasn’t going to happen,” Obama continued. “Instead what we have is the manufacturing of outrage in a story that we disclosed in January.”
The President then stressed that the payment shouldn’t be construed as a ransom.
“We’ve got a number of Americans being held all around the world, and I meet with their families, and it is heartbreaking,” Obama said. “And the notion that we would somehow start now in this high-profile way and announce it to the world, even as we’re looking into the faces of other families whose loved ones are being held hostage and say to them that we don’t pay ransom, defies logic.”
Paying ransom would encourage the targeting of American citizens, he said.