Ayotte, Rubio introduce bill prohibiting ‘ransom’ payments to Iran
By Kelly Thomas | September 8, 2016, 6:17 EDT
WASHINGTON – A year after the United States and five other world powers — including the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, and Germany — signed a controversial nuclear agreement with Iran, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) is joining with several Republican colleagues to try and stop the Obama administration from making further “ransom” payments to the Iranian government.
Yesterday, Sen. Ayotte joined Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and other Republican lawmakers in introducing the No Ransom Payments Act of 2016, which would require Tehran to return $1.7 billion paid by the U.S. to settle a decades old dispute and would prohibit the federal government from making additional payments to the terrorist-sponsoring regime.
In filing the bill, Republican lawmakers are responding to revelations over the summer that the U.S. sent $400 million in foreign currency banknotes to Tehran in an unmarked cargo plane on the same day that Iran released imprisoned American citizens.
The State Department has acknowledged the money was used as “leverage” to help ensure the prisoners release, but denies that the payment was a “ransom.”
The bill, a version of which was introduced in the House by Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), would also require the government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to pay $53 million in reparations to American victims of past terrorist attacks coordinated by Iran.
According to the Congressional Research Service, compensatory and punitive awards in U.S. court terrorism judgments against Iran total more than $55 billion. They include awards relating to the bombings of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983; the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996; and the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya in 1998.
Ayotte and Rubio introduced the bill just days after a report revealed that the Iranian government had budgeted the $1.7 billion to directly fund their military.
Exacerbating tensions between the U.S. and Iran is the continued harassment of U.S. navy ships in the Gulf by Iranian attack boats. Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said that there have been over thirty such interactions with Iranian ships in 2016 alone.
Sen. Ayotte attributed the Iranian ships’ behavior to current White House policies that “have emboldened Tehran and invited increased belligerence.”
CNSNews contributed to this report.