State Dept: $400 Million Cash Payment to Iran Contingent on Prisoners Being Released

State Department spokesman John Kirby said Thursday that it was necessary for American prisoners to be released in order for the American government to pay $400 million in cash to the Iranian government.

Associated Press reporter Brad Klapper asked Kirby if the American government would only pay Iran if the prisoners were released.

"In basic English, you’re saying that you wouldn’t give them the $400 million in cash until the prisoners were released, correct?" Klapper asked.

"That’s correct," Kirby said.

The Obama administration has repeatedly refused to call the cash payment to Iran a "ransom payment." Kirby’s statement appears to imply there may have been a quid pro quo of money and prisoners being exchanged, however.

President Obama and administration officials have said the $400 million was part of a settlement over a failed arms deal from 1979, before the Iranian Revolution, and that the money transfer and prisoner release occurring almost simultaneously was a coincidence.

Tehran released four detained Americans on Jan. 17 before receiving the money, one day after the Iran nuclear deal was implemented.