In the midst of the particularly vindictive session of President Trump’s infamous “executive time” this morning which saw the president lashing out like a wounded animal at his enemies, real and perceived, he stopped to take a petulant swipe at former President Obama and reiterate one of his favorite conspiracy theories – that President Obama sent a prodigious sum of cash to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Never gotten over the fact that Obama was able to send $1.7 Billion Dollars in CASH to Iran and nobody in Congress, the FBI or Justice called for an investigation!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
Trump’s tweet is deliberately vague and does not deign to mention what this money may have been for; possibly to simply rouse up right-wing fury at the obvious insinuation that our first black president illegally funneled funds to the boogeyman of the Middle East as part of a terrorist conspiracy – or he’s just forgotten the details of this particular conspiracy theory. He deals in so many of them it must be hard for him to keep them all straight.
Either way, the tweet is extremely disingenuous and insulting to our former president. Here’s a reminder of what actually happened with the $1.7 billion.
The cash transfer that Trump is referring to is the return of $400 million dollars to Iran that the United States gave back around the time that an American cruiser accidentally drifted into Iranian waters and was seized in January 2016.
Right-wing media had a field day in their shameless attempts to paint this as evidence that President Obama gave a $400 million “ransom” for the return of our servicemen, but as usual, they refused to do their homework.
In the 1970s, the United States made a deal to sell $400 million worth of fighter jets to the Shah of Iran. The Shah paid upfront but was then deposed in the Iranian revolution, so the United States never delivered the jets.
The return of that $400 million – which had ballooned to $1.7 billion after forty or so years of interest – was indeed used as a bargaining chip in the negotiations to release the American sailors that had been detained after their cruiser violated Iranian territorial sovereignty – but the distinction between bargaining chip and “ransom” is critical.
The rest of the $1.3 billion was withheld and returned to Iran after the sailors were returned home safely, unharmed but for a few bruised egos. It was Iran’s money to begin with, and we were morally required to return it.
But seeing as President Trump’s business record is a dismal list of failures, bad faith “deals,” and outright theft, it should come as no surprise that a good-faith deal to prevent a nuclear standoff with a major power is portrayed as a capitulation and a betrayal for no other reason than to fan his own sense of superiority and to appease the war-hungry neoconservative jackals that wait in the wings.