UPDATE: House Speaker Paul Ryan responds.
It's hard to believe, but the Iran ransom scandal we learned about has taken another turn for the worst. We already know that on the same day that Iran released four American prisoners, the U.S. government forked over $1.7 billion in cash. That's not all. Now, officials report that we lifted UN sanctions on two key Iranian banks as part of the swap agreement, according to a new report by the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. agreed in a third document to support the immediate delisting of the two Iranian banks, according to senior U.S. officials. In the hours after the documents were signed at a Swiss hotel, the different elements of the agreement went forward: The Americans were released, Iran took possession of the $400 million in cash, and the U.N. Security Council removed sanctions on Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International, these officials said.
These sanctions were supposed to remain in place until 2023. Yet, the U.S. agreed to lift them after Iran claimed Bank Sepah was critical to their economic growth. So, we apparently complied - and the timing was no coincidence, officials say.
Why were these banks sanctioned in the first place? They are reportedly connected to Iran's missile program.
“Lifting the sanctions on Sepah was part of the package,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the deliberations. “The timing of all this isn’t coincidental. Everything was linked to some degree.”
Congress has passed legislation making it illegal to send future ransom payments to Iran.