The Mendacity Behind Obama's Mockery of the Cash-for-Iran Story
"It is not at all clear to me why it is that cash, as opposed to a check or wire transfer, has made this into a news story."
-- President Barack Obama, Pentagon Press Conference, August 4, 2016
Thus did President Obama scold those who are now asking why his administration secretly airlifted $400 million worth of cash to Iran this past January, just as Iran was releasing four American prisoners. By Obama's account, there's nothing to see here. Not only did Obama deny, despite the striking coincidence of timing, that the payment was a ransom. He also mocked anyone who might see the story of the cash itself as troubling news, or newsworthy at all. Obama dismissed such reactions as "the manufacturing of outrage in a story that we disclosed in January."
Welcome, once again, to the vertigo of the Obama "narrative," in which the priority of his "most transparent" administration is not to deal honestly with the American public, but to spin a web of half truths, enmeshed in complexities, to cover up highly questionable uses of power -- and then, if caught red-handed, use the bully pulpit to deride and dismiss the critics.
In this case, the thrust of Obama's remarks was to write off the story of the cash shipment to Iran as a bit of out-dated trivia, the sort of thing no serious person would care about. At his Pentagon press conference on Thursday, he went on to speculate that maybe the tale is generating interest simply because it is colorful to picture pallets of cash: "Maybe because it feels like some spy novel or some crime novel."
Yes, it does. But there are reasons that spy and crime novels -- plus a fair number of felony cases in U.S. courts -- are prone to feature such episodes as stacks of cash delivered secretly to the bad guys. Such behavior reeks of shady activity. Cash is highly fungible, and harder to trace than checks or wire transfers. (A word to the wise: If you ever find yourself making a multi-million dollar payment to someone, and he asks for it in stacks of cash, you might want to walk away.)
For a government, such as Iran's regime -- world's leading state sponsor of terrorism -- cash lends itself less to financing national infrastructure (the use to which the administration suggests it has likely been put) than to funding terrorists and pursuing illicit weapons. Whatever Iran's regime might be doing in the way of sewer and road repair, its demonstrated priorities include its continued testing of ballistic missiles, in violation of UN sanctions. The prime use of ballistic missiles is to carry nuclear warheads -- which suggests that Iran's likely intent is, at a moment of its choosing, to scrap Obama's vaunted Iran nuclear deal (on which Iran is already cheating). As far as that entails buying weapons and technology from, say, nuclear-testing North Korea, or procuring illicit inputs on world markets, hard cash is a big help.
Obama's justification for sending the $400 million installment in cash is that the U.S., due to its strict sanctions on Iran, has no banking relationship with the country -- thus the air-freighted pallets of banknotes. Except that doesn't add up. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey asks: "How come the U.S. did not simply transfer the $400 million we are told actually belonged to Iran to a foreign entity, to be converted into foreign funds for conventional banking transmission to Tehran?"
It's also disturbing that Obama's administration still seems unable or unwilling to officially disgorge such basic information -- relevant to the accusation of ransom -- as precisely what time, on what date, the $400 million worth of cash arrived in Tehran. Nor has Obama's administration disclosed how or when it conveyed to Iran a further $1.3 billion payout, which was part of the same deal. Was it sent by check? By wire? Or were there yet more pallets of money delivered door-to-door to Tehran?
One might almost suppose Obama knows quite well that cash shipments to Tehran are actually a very big story. A story that quite reasonably raises glaring questions about his dealings with Iran, and the integrity of the narrative he offers the public.