State Department spokesman John Kirby disagreed Wednesday with a former hostage who was held by Iran until earlier this year on whether the Obama administration’s $1.7 billion payment to the Iranian government was a ransom.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto played a piece of an interview from Tuesday in which Saeed Abedini, an Iranian American pastor detained by Iran from 2012 until January this year, said that it seemed like a ransom payment to him.
"Well, I disagree," Kirby said. "I mean, with all due respect, we don’t pay ransom for hostages. That’s U.S. policy, that hasn’t changed."
"But he’s saying that he was held up," Cavuto said. "His release was held up until another plane was coming, verified by other captives, and the timing seemed odd."
"Well, we talked about this and we’ve talked about it a lot," Kirby said. "There were two parallel tracks coming together here in roughly the same amount of time and space."
"I’m not saying it was a coincidence. They were driving forward on parallel tracks," Kirby said.
On Jan. 17, the U.S. government airlifted $400 million in pallets of cash that did not leave Geneva for Iran until a plane with four American prisoners had left Tehran. The Obama administration has claimed that the $400 million, the initial payment of a larger $1.7 billion settlement on a decades-old failed arms deal between both countries, was not a ransom but rather was "leverage" to secure the hostages’ release.