Republican Senator accuses Obama of paying Iran $400m to release US prisoners


22 Aug 2016 | by
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Republican Senator accuses Obama of paying Iran $400m to release US prisoners

Republican senator Mark Kirk said on Sunday that Barack Obama was “acting like the drug dealer-in-chief” when his administration used the delivery of a $400m payment to Iran as what it called “leverage”.

Kirk made the statement during an interview with the editorial board of the State Journal-Register, a local newspaper in his home state of Illinois.

“We can't have the president of the United States acting like the drug dealer-in-chief,” Kirk said, according to comments published late Saturday. “Giving clean packs of money to a … state sponsor of terror.”

Related: US delayed $400m payment to Iran until American prisoners released

“Those 500-euro notes will pop up across the Middle East,” he added, referring to the currency in which the money was paid because US law makes it illegal to have transactions with Iran in US dollars. “We're going to see problems in multiple [countries] because of that money given to them.”

Republicans have aggressively criticized Obama over the payment, which coincided with the release of four American prisoners held in Iran in January and was made public at the same time.

Although the two events were unrelated – the $400m payment was made to settle a decades-old account having to do with a failed arms deal between the US and pre-revolutionary Iran – Republicans have decried it as a “ransom” amid recent reports detailing the transfer.

The Obama administration has vehemently rejected the charge, saying only that the US government delayed the payment until after the American prisoners were released in order to maintain leverage over Iran. Last week, the state department spokesman John Kirby said the US “took advantage of the leverage” that the delivery provided, in order “to make sure they got out safely and efficiently”.

Kirk, who is facing a tough re-election battle for his Senate seat, has been a vocal critic of the Iran nuclear accord.

The senator has a penchant for stirring controversy with his remarks, once telling a newspaper people drive faster through black neighborhoods. Kirk also expressed regret last year for referring to his colleague Lindsey Graham, a senator from South Carolina, as “a bro with no ho”.

Tom Cotton, a Republican senator from Arkansas, used similar words to Kirk's in characterizing the payment to Iran. “I think it's really shocking to most Americans that the United States government was acting like a drug cartel,” Cotton said earlier this month.

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