Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal revealed the Obama Administration secretly airlifted $400 million in cash to Iran, coinciding with the release of four American prisoners.
When two governments engage in high-profile negotiations or discuss the release of detained prisoners, every action taken by both governments is thoroughly planned and scrutinized. With so much at stake, it is unlikely that simple coincidences may occur.
With that in mind, I find it troubling that the United States reportedly sent an additional $400 million to the Iranian government during the same month of the release of several American prisoners held in Iran and the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.
In the eyes of our enemies, who may seek to kidnap Americans abroad for extortion, this payment amounts to a $400 million ransom for the hostages, establishing a threshold required for future negotiations. We are now complicit in the very acts, yielding to extortion, we have denounced and reprimanded other countries for taking part in.
The Administration insists this was not a quid pro quo, but even a senior Administration official noted at the time, the $400 million cash payment was “also a part of this broader resolution of a number of issues.”
Furthermore, airlifting cash completely undermines efforts to track terrorism financing and allows the Iranians to directly fund designated foreign terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas.
President Obama already sent billions of dollars to Iran as a precondition to negotiations of the Iran nuclear agreement, and Iran received more than $100 billion once the agreement was finalized.
Iran still remains a designated state-sponsor of terror by our State Department, yet the Obama Administration is consistently able to find new ways to send billions of dollars to prop up their government.
United States foreign policy towards Iran appears to be a rudderless effort to justify the competence of the Iran deal, especially if we are to take the State Department at its word that the $400 million payment during prisoner negotiations was a simple coincidence.
How can President Obama claim he is truly serious in opposing terrorism and stopping the flow of resources to these groups when he has been a primary benefactor to the world’s number one state sponsor of terror?
On Wednesday, I wrote Secretary John Kerry outlining these concerns and demanded an explanation.
THE WEEK IN WASHINGTON
On Thursday, the FBI arrested a Charlotte man charged with providing support to ISIS. Make no mistake — the longer ISIS remains on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, the more effective their propaganda and recruitment efforts will become. This will continue leading towards a proliferation of ISIS-related threats around the world.
Technology allows ISIS to inspire lone wolf terrorists all over the globe, even in our own backyard. As such, we must ensure our law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to continue their vital anti-terrorism efforts. Thank you to the law enforcement officials involved in this case for their vigilant work in stopping this man before he could carry out an attack.
This week, I’ve heard from multiple constituents concerned about the Zika virus. The Centers for Disease Control recently issued a travel warning to all Americans, advising pregnant women to avoid the Miami, Florida region due to recent Zika outbreaks.
In July, the House passed a $1.1 billion funding package to fight Zika, but Senate Democrats decided to play politics with the health and safety of the American people by pulling support of the bill at the last minute. Currently, the Obama Administration is sitting on nearly $400 million it has available to fight Zika, but is deliberately not using those funds. Now is not the time to play politics with our nation’s public health, and I urge my Senate Democrat colleagues to stop blocking the Zika response funding package.
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-Charlotte, represents North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, which will include Richmond County next year under state redistricting maps.