On the same day that four American hostages were released by Iran, an airplane carrying $400 million worth of currency arrived in Tehran, courtesy of the Obama administration, according to published reports.
The four hostages -- which included a Washington Post reporter -- were freed on Jan. 17 and at the time Revolutionary Guard Gen. Reza Naghdi boasted that Washington had bowed to pressure from Tehran.
"Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies," he told Iranian state media, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported the cash shipment.
The Obama administration denies there is a link between the cash shipment and the hostage release, the paper reports. Senior administration officials called the timing a coincidence, and said the cash represents the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement over a failed 1979 arms deal.
According to the paper, the Obama administration wired $400 million to central banks in Switzerland and then had the dollars converted to foreign currencies such as euros, and Swiss francs. That was done because it is illegal to conduct any transaction with Iran in dollars. The cash was stacked on a pallet and flown on an unmarked cargo plane to the Mehrabad airport.
While U.S. officials said Iran wanted cash for the hostages, the cash that arrived was not part of the deal.
"As we've made clear, the negotiations over the settlement of an outstanding claim ... were completely separate from the discussions about returning our American citizens home," State Department spokesman John Kirby told the Wall Street Journal. "Not only were the two negotiations separate, they were conducted by different teams on each side, including, in the case of The Hague claims, by technical experts involved in these negotiations for many years."
Since the January deal, the Iranian intelligence service has arrested two Iranian Americans, as well as dual citizens from France, Canada and the U.K., the paper reported.