White House spokesman Josh Earnest defended the $400 million payment to Iran that was contingent on the release of four American prisoners as emblematic of President Obama’s "tough diplomatic strategy" on Monday.
The State Department acknowledged last week that the January payment, which was made in cash on an unmarked cargo plane, was in fact conditional on the release of the prisoners being held in Iran. Obama administration officials said it was a deft way to resolve an old debt stemming from a 1970s arms deal and get back American hostages, while critics charged it was effectively a ransom payment.
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Asked if the administration had been "adequately forthcoming" about how the exchange occurred, Earnest said the White House had been direct about the benefits of the nuclear deal, one of which was opening up channels of communication to make such an exchange was possible.
"The benefits that we have described have been verified and made public based on what exactly transpired," he said.
The negotiations to resolve the old dispute saved taxpayers billions of dollars, Earnest said, and the U.S. succeeded in securing a "mutual prisoner release."
"All of this was accomplished without a single shot being fired," he said. "All of this was accomplished without U.S. troops being deployed, and it’s an indication of how effective the president’s tough diplomatic strategy has proved to be."