Rep. Zeldin: President Obama's $1.7 Billion Cash Payment to Iran Was in Direct Violation of Federal Law Enacted in 2000
Washington, DC – On September 14, 2016, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, during the committee markup of H.R. 5931, the Prohibiting Future Ransom Payments to Iran Act, introduced an amendment, which was approved into the underlying bill by voice vote. Congressman Zeldin’s amendment can be viewed here. During the hearing, Congressman Zeldin referenced a federal law enacted in 2000, which details a very specific requirement regarding payments to Iran from the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program account, which was directly violated by President Obama's $1.7 billion cash payment to Iran.
After the 1979 Iranian Revolution and prior to the 2000 law, U.S. victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism sued the Iranian government in U.S. court, with claims regarding deaths, injuries and damages caused by Iran’s terrorist activities. For years, these victims tried to resolve their claims, unfortunately without closure. The claims were eventually paid by the U.S. government and Congress required in a new law that the claims should be paid back to the U.S. government from the frozen FMS funds prior to any funds being paid to Iran from that account.
In 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (Public Law 106–386). Section 2002(c), Subrogation, reads: "Upon payment under subsection (a) with respect to payments in connection with a Foreign Military Sales Program account, the United States shall be fully subrogated, to the extent of the payments, to all rights of the person paid under that subsection against the debtor foreign state. The President shall pursue these subrogated rights as claims or offsets of the United States in appropriate ways, including any negotiation process which precedes the normalization of relations between the foreign state designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and the United States, except that no funds shall be paid to Iran, or released to Iran, from property blocked under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act or from the Foreign Military Sales Fund, until such subrogated claims have been dealt with to the satisfaction of the United States."
Congressman Zeldin said, “Some people blindly loyal to this President will say that this $1.7 billion ransom payment was Iran’s money. No it wasn’t. This was a disputed claim for decades for good reason. Nor did it by U.S. federal law have precedence over the subrogated and approved claims of American victims of Iranian terror. In fact, federal law specifically states just the opposite. When the American victims accepted payments for their claims from the U.S., their claims were subrogated to the United States, meaning that their claims against Iran became the United States’ claims against Iran. Even though the 2000 law clearly states that “no funds shall be paid to Iran, or released to Iran … from the Foreign Military Sales Fund, until such subrogated claims have been dealt with to the satisfaction of the United States,” President Obama paid Iran the full $400 million amount from the FMS fund, plus more than three times that amount in interest – a total of 1.7 billion dollars in cash – apparently without requiring Iran to pay anything to the American victims of Iran's terrorism: A direct violation of the 2000 law.”
You can watch Congressman Zeldin's remarks on this topic at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing here.
Earlier in the hearing, Congressman Zeldin debated Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) about the $1.7 billion cash ransom payment to Iran. You can watch the exchange here.