Wednesday’s wall surface Street Journal has what sounds favor a nice damning revelation. The story, by Jay Solomon and also Carol Lee, reveals the the us quietly paid Iran $1.3 billion in foreign cash. Sounds favor a scandal, right?

Republicans certainly think so. House international Affairs Committee chair Ed Royce has actually introduced a invoice aimed in ~ blocking similar payments in the future, suggesting that the payment was component of a ransom for number of Americans detained in Iran. “The Obama management forked over a massive cash ransom come Iran, emboldening the world’s leading state sponsor that terror and putting much more lives in ~ risk,” Royce stated in a statement.

You can additionally expect come hear Donald trump renew his strikes on the administration’s Iran deal at a televised town hall meeting Wednesday night specialized to national security. Earlier this week, Trump, in his typically understated way, warned the the pact “is walk to damage Israel — uneven I acquire elected.”

But the wall surface Street newspaper story is in reality describing a payment the President Obama announced ago in January. The news here is that the payment had already been yielded — which is come say this is a story about details the timing and also how the cash was delivered.

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And, as Solomon and also Lee write, the payment to be the result of an agreed settlement to a 35-year instance in global court. It had nothing to do, together Royce says, with any type of "ransom" payment with Iran.

Once you know these facts, you"ll recognize that this isn’t in reality a story about a scandalous Obama management payment to Iran. That a story about the method Washington’s debate over Iran is essentially broken.

The actual story of the $1.3 billion

an pro-revolution Iranian mrs in Tehran in 1979. (Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images) In very an easy terms, this payment is the first installment of a refund for us weapons the Iran purchased however that America never ever delivered. That starts in 1979, the year of the Iranian Revolution.

In November 1979, a team loyal to the revolutionary regimen took 52 americans hostage at the us Embassy in Tehran. In response, the United says severed diplomatic relations with Iran and also froze Iranian legacy in America.

Crucially, the joined States halted a distribution of fighter jets that Iran’s pre-revolution government had currently paid $400 million for. Normally the us would have actually returned the money if it no going to deliver the planes, since countries don’t just break official agreements prefer that. But the US federal government had currently frozen Iranian heritage in the United states as punishment for the hostage-taking — and that contained the $400 million.

The hostage crisis was at some point resolved in 1981, in ~ a conference in Algiers. However the Algiers Accords didn’t solve every outstanding issue — consisting of the legal status of the $400 million.

Instead, the accord collection up an worldwide court, based in the Hague, to attend to any legal claims that the federal governments of Iran and also the United claims had against each other, or the individual citizen of either nation had versus the other country.

This court, referred to as the Iran–United States cases Tribunal, worked as a sort of binding arbitration. To address cases, the connected parties might either negotiate a settlement out of court or take it come a panel made up of 3 US-appointed judges, 3 Iranian-appointed judges, and also three neutral judges. The panel would certainly then hear the case and issue a binding ruling.

This process, as you could guess, was very, very slow. By the moment Obama’s 2nd term in office began, the tribunal still had actually not come to a ruling on the concern of the $400 million. At some time afterward, the connected Press’s Matt Lee and Bradley Klapper report, the US government apparently concluded that it to be going to shed the case — and also lose big: Iran was seeking $10 exchange rate in today’s dollars.

"US officials had expected a ruling on the Iranian insurance claim from the tribunal any type of time, and feared a judgment that would have actually made the interest payments lot higher," Lee and Klapper write.

So the Obama administration decided to clear up out of court, opened up negotiations with Iran ~ above the regards to the settlement. That did this in ~ the very same time it to be negotiating the nuclear transaction and the return of 4 US citizens who had been detained through Iran an ext recently.

However, the world working on the nuclear deal and the prisoner release were different from the team working on the court case roughly the tools money — few of the latter team had been associated with the cases tribunal because that years.

By January 2016, the countries had struck a transaction — the united state would salary Iran $1.7 billion, which amounts to around $300 million in attention on peak of the originally frozen assets (accounting because that inflation).

This settlement was announced the same day in January as Iran obtained its very first round of sanctions relief native the Iran deal.

The transaction was paid in installments, with $400 million gift handed end to Iran top top the very same day the the US prisoners were exit (January 17). The following $1.3 billion, follow to Solomon and also Lee Wednesday’s report, was paid over the food of the next 19 days.

The factor this to be done in installments is that us law stays clear of the US government from giving Iran dollars, so the federal government had to scrape together foreign currency. Getting together large amounts of foreign cash is difficult even for the US federal government — thus the short-term installment plan.

So there you have actually it. The $1.3 billion payment, i m sorry sounds yes, really shady out of context, was in reality the end of a boring, decades-old global legal case totally unrelated come the hot-button nuclear and also prisoner issues.

Why would certainly anyone think this is scandalous?

man Kerry and also Iranian foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif. (Pool/Getty Images) almost immediately after the $1.7 billion transaction was announced, doubters began saying that all was no as that seemed. The timing of the decades-old tools payment settlement and the hostage release suggested that it wasn’t just a settlement on a legal worry — it was a ransom payment.

"A transaction that sent $1.7 billion in U.S. Accumulation to Iran, announced together the releasing of five Americans indigenous Iranian jails, has emerged as a brand-new flashpoint amid a claim in Tehran that the transaction price to a ransom payment," Solomon, the journal reporter, created at the time.

But there was no direct evidence to back up this theory. The speculation about timing was just that — speculation.

Moreover, the basic logic the it didn’t make any kind of sense. Iran to be going to obtain that money back no matter what v the arbitration process — probably more, if the Obama administration was right. Why would it release potentially an important hostages in exchange because that money it would certainly have acquired otherwise? Iran would need to be the world dumbest hostage taker.

Several recent wall surface Street newspaper pieces, both by Solomon and Lee, attempted come clarify what in reality happened. The core reality uncovered by Solomon and also Lee is that the us refused to provide the very first $400 million payment fan under the negotiation until that was certain that Iran had actually upheld its finish of the bargain on the prisoner deal.

"US public official wouldn"t let Iranians take manage of the money until a Swiss waiting Force plane carrying three freed american departed from Tehran on Jan. 17," Solomon and Lee write. "Once that happened, one Iranian cargo airplane was enabled to carry the cash home from a Geneva airport the day."

In August, a State room spokesperson shown Solomon and Lee"s an easy finding ~ above record. Previously, the administration had denied any link in between the prisoner release and also the arms deal settlement.

"State department spokesman john Kirby ... Said the U.S. Withheld the shipment of the cash as leverage till Iran allowed the americans to leave the country," the AP"s Klapper reports.

This information, however, doesn"t quantity to evidence of a ransom. Remember, the US had actually already agreed to salary Iran the money as part of the settlement. The just question was timing.

What occurred is that the US determined to postpone the payment that had currently promised to make until it was certain Iran was upholding the prisoner release deal. Iran wasn"t gaining any additional money in exchange for detainees (it actually got prisoners in exchange for prisoners). The US federal government just chose it couldn"t to trust Iran, necessarily, so that withheld complying with through ~ above the arms deal settlement until that was sure Iran was cooperating ~ above the sinner deal.

In various other words, for the $400 million come actually have actually counted together a "ransom," the us would have actually needed to agree to salary Iran $400 million specifically in exchange for the release of that is prisoners. Yet that"s not what taken place here. Only the timing of the payment was attached to the release.

Wednesday’s story, around the staying $1.3 billion, is even sillier. All Solomon and Lee’s item uncovers is that the settlement had currently been payment — it find no brand-new evidence linking it come the prisoner exchange fairly than the court case. And yet the writer sneakily suggest that it’s part of the dispute surrounding the former: “The <$1.3 billion> revelations come together Congress returns from a summer recess v Republicans vowing to go after charges that the White residence paid ransom to Tehran.”

What"s more, the Iranian negotiators ~ above the sinner exchange were no the very same negotiators affiliated in the tools deal settlement. Therefore, castle couldn"t make demands of the united state team negotiating the tools deal settlement, which method they couldn"t negotiate a quid agree quo the money for hostage release, the an interpretation of a ransom.

" the opposite of ransom," write Matt Duss, the president of the structure for Middle eastern Peace. "Obama acquired Iran to settle for fraction of money that could"ve gotten, and also got prisoners back as well."

One might make the argument, i suppose, the the timing was a form of ransom. By transporting the $400 million payment on the same day together the prisoner release, Iranian officials could claim they obtained the money as part of a ransom deal, and also thus make the United says look weak.

Indeed, that"s what part Iranian officials have actually done. "Iranian press reports have quoted an elderly Iranian defense public official describing the cash together a ransom payment," Solomon and also Lee write.

Yet it"s entirely predictable the Iranian officials would certainly spin this illustration as a hostage payment. Law so makes them look strong to their domestic audience and also America look weak. We just shouldn"t take Iranian rotate at face value — specifically when that contradicted by elevation evidence.

In reality, the Iranians can have make inflated claims around the payment no matter when the cash was delivered. If the Obama administration had forked over $400 million six months later, those exact same Iranian defense officials can have lied and said it was part of the prisoner relax deal.

This lie isn’t significantly an ext credible just since the cash was delivered on the same day. Nor must American media and also politicians assist validate the Iranian lie by treating Iranian propaganda as actual evidence.

The bottom line, then, is that none the the report on this topic has actually uncovered real proof that the united state agreed to offer Iran money the it wouldn’t have obtained otherwise as part of the hostage relax deal. There’s smoke here, however no fire.

This shows just how our Iran dispute is broken

an anti-deal protest in times Square. (Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images) yes a bigger problem here. Due to the fact that this no really around a series of cash payments to Iran — it’s about the fundamentally broken means we talk about US-Iran relations.

Every debate about Iran in Washington nowadays is yes, really a debate about the Iran nuclear deal.

Basically, one camp says the US must welcome a settlement that defuses tensions through Iran ~ above this one details issue, if the other sees Iran as a fundamentally hostile actor that cannot — and should not — be endangered with.

That second camp look at the deal as a large step towards the united state accommodating Iran much more broadly in the middle East, which they believe would it is in a catastrophe of epic proportions. Therefore they campaign, relentlessly, to threaten the nuclear deal — with the assistance of most of the Republican Party.

Indira Lakshmanan has actually a revealing story in Politico top top the "plan to undo the Iranian atom deal" by staying clear of Iran native reentering the an international economy, and also the "constellation of press groups, analysts, lobbyists and also lawmakers" who are difficult at work trying to make it happen.

The problem, though, is that the nuclear transaction is actually functioning pretty well.

When you talk to technological experts, they tell you that Iran is abiding by the deal’s terms. The Iranians have reduced down top top the variety of centrifuges, limited their to make reservation of enriched uranium, and done numerous other things that have made it much harder for them to construct a nuclear bomb.

"I think it"s gone really well," Jeffrey Lewis, manager of the eastern Asia Nonproliferation regimen at the Middlebury academy of global Studies in ~ Monterey, said me on the deal’s one-year anniversary in July. "The has been frequently reporting top top Iran"s compliance, and Iran is adhering to the deal."

This create a significant problem for team anti-deal. Castle need proof that the transaction isn’t working and should it is in undone, but the facts around the deal’s core provisions don’t support that. The result is an unlimited deluge that spin. Every brand-new piece of info on Iran or the nuclear transaction becomes proof that Iran is evil or cannot be trusted.

Since the deal, there’s to be a slew the bad-sounding stories being spun wildly to build a rigid of a broken nuclear deal and an Obama management kowtowing to Iran. A couple of examples:

These stories are all extremely technical: In order to understand the truth, you need to understand a fair amount about how nuclear inspections work-related or the regards to the atom deal. Without the knowledge, it’s straightforward to view a sample of Iranian malfeasance and violation the the terms of the deal — which is specifically the story deal doubters are trying come tell.

This most recent conflict over the alleged "hostage" payment fits this sample perfectly. The truth of the instance is extremely technical and also boring; nobody cares about a 35-year-old worldwide litigation process.

And a surface-level look at the facts — the united state withheld a payment of $400 million in an enig cash till Iran released us prisoners, and then transport over one more $1.3 exchange rate in the next few days — confirms the stare of the Obama administration making absurd concessions to Iran.

Yet as soon as boring truth meet interesting spin, exciting spin frequently wins out. For this reason you’ve got Mark Dubowitz, the executive, management director that the structure for the Defense the Democracies and also one that the leaders of the initiative to torpedo the deal, claiming the the entire $1.7 billion was a large ransom payment.

If you weren’t complying with this debate really closely, you wouldn’t recognize why he was wrong. You would certainly conclude that the US has "once again" made embarrassing concessions to Iran — a suggest that Republicans, transaction critics, and also Obama adversaries are only too happy to amplify.

I’m not trying come say the Iranians room innocent tiny lambs. Iran is most absolutely a very, really bad actor — it is dispersing sectarian violence in Iraq (and elsewhere), resources anti-Israel terrorist groups, and also devoting tremendous army resources to propping up Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regimen in Syria. The nuclear deal hasn’t made Iran into a force for stability, as part deal supporters in the Obama management hoped, and it more than likely won’t.

These room real, serious foreign policy problems for the unified States. However when ours Iran debate focuses on misleading atom inspection minutiae or even if it is the Obama administration is "kowtowing" come Iran with things choose the alleged hostage payment, us aren’t having actually a severe conversation around how to deal with Iran’s actually poor policies.

Instead, we’re debating an unlimited drumbeat that misleading story designed only to weaken the atom deal and also faith in the Obama administration’s negotiating prowess. The ransom faux scandal is just the recent such story in this pattern.

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This no a helpful method of talking about America’s Iran policy, and also it requirements to stop.