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.
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"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.