State Dept Withheld $400 Million Payment to Iran Over Prisoners

Money Was Already Owed to Iran, But Withheld as 'Leverage'

Adding to recent allegations about the US paying a $400 million “ransom” for the release of US prisoners from Iran, the State Department today offered a clarification, conceding that while the payment was officially unrelated, the US had been withholding it over the prisoner release issue.

The US denied paying a ransom for the prisoners, but did confirm paying a $400 million cash payment at roughly the same time, a payment which was the result of a Hague Tribunal ruling ordering them to repay Iran for money they’d paid for services before the 1979 revolution, services which the US never rendered.

The Wall Street Journal has been hyping the payment as a secret cash for prisoners exchange, even though the payment was publicly confirmed by the State Department the day it happened. The Hague Tribunal had actually ordered the US to repay Iran quite some time before the prisoner swap happened.

Which ultimately makes this sort of the opposite of a ransom. Instead of the US “paying Iran” for prisoners, the US was forcing Iran to give them prisoners in return for the refund the international tribunal had already agreed they were entitled to.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of