Rep. Ed Royce Promises Hearings on $400M, Dead-of-Night Cash Payment to Iran

Susan Jones | August 4, 2016 | 5:46am EDT
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Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. (AP File Photo)

( - Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which he chairs, will hold hearings on the Obama administration's $400-million cash payment to Iran in January, just as Iran finally agreed to release four imprisoned Americans.

"Yes, we're going to be looking into this," Royce told Fox News on Wednesday.

The Obama administration denies that the cash payment was ransom for the four Americans, as it appears to be.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the "pallets of cash," converted from dollars to foreign currencies and airlifted to Iran in the middle of the night, amounted to the first installment of the $1.7 billion owed to Iran following a busted 1979 arms deal.

The $1.7 billion payment to Iran was not a surprise. Both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry mentioned it briefly in January. But the $400 cash drop, coinciding with the hostage release, was not known until now.

"And this money, this $400 million, they (Iran) wanted in unmarked bills, they wanted that in cash for a reason," Royce told Fox News.

"I mean, what we know about this case is, it's in unmarked bills, in Swiss francs, in a plane that is unmarked, landing in the dead of night without the American public or without Congress being told about this.

"Now remember, originally, this negotiation was supposed to be between the transfer of four Americans held by Iran and seven Iranians held by the United States."

Indeed, press reports in January described the deal as a prisoner swap -- 4 Americans exchanged for 7 Iranians in U.S. custody. There was no mention of a $400 million cash payment in connection with the "delicately negotiated swap with the United States," as the New York Times described it at the time.

"Now we have got three more Americans that have been arrested and are being held (in Iran)," Royce said. "Now we have two Europeans and one Canadian also being arrested and held."

Royce said he has sponsored legislation to prevent the administration from giving Iran access to the U.S. dollar and the U.S. banking system. "It's very important, because they are the number one state sponsor of terrorism," he said.

"[W]e don't give them access to hard currency for the reason that, if they get their hands on cash, they give that to Hezbollah and to Hamas and use it as they recently did to overthrow a friendly government to the United States in Yemen.

"They use it for terrorist purposes. That's why we don't give them access to cash. And what's new here is the discovery of $400 million paid as we get four Americans back."

Royce said Iran wants cash to spend on its intercontinental ballistic missile program: "And so for our allies in the region and for our own public security, why would we want to transfer cash that could be used in their ballistic missile system or to support their terrorist operations that Hezbollah undertakes and the money that they also give, by the way, to Hamas?"

The White House has said that the Iran nuclear deal does not cover Iran's missile-testing program.

Royce said the Obama's "capitulation" to Iran is part of a pattern of how he has handled other foreign adversaries.

"So, early on, for example, you saw the capitulation as our anti-ballistic missile defense system intended to protect Europe and the United States from any launch that could ever be done from Iran was pulled out of Poland and the Czech Republic.

"That interceptor system was pulled out in order to have the Russian restart. At that point, other countries started to take our measure. At that point, we began to have difficulty with the Russians pushing into Ukraine. We began to have difficulties with Iran doubling down on its demands."

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