In an unprecedented move by a sitting U.S. President, Barack Obama called presidential hopeful and Republican nominee Donald Trump, “woefully underprepared” to be president.
Obama made the remarks at a joint press conference with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the White House on Tuesday, August 2nd.
“I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president. I said so last week and he keeps on proving it. He [Trump] doesn’t appear to have basic knowledge on critical issues in Europe, in the Middle East, in Asia.”
A day later, reports surfaced that the Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January 2016 release of four Americans detained in Tehran, according to U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation afterward.
The Wall Street Journal reported further on the brief:
“Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, according to these officials. The U.S. procured the money from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland, they said. The $400 million was paid in foreign currency because any transaction with Iran in U.S. dollars is illegal under U.S. law. Sanctions also complicate Tehran’s access to global banks.
The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. But U.S. officials also acknowledge that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible.
“Sometimes the Iranians want cash because it’s so hard for them to access things in the international financial system,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the January cash delivery. “They know it can take months just to figure out how to wire money from one place to another.”
Although the Obama administration has denied all claims that this payment had nothing to do with the freeing of American hostages back in January 2016, and that in fact were separate negotiations – Iranian press reported having quoted senior Iranian defense officials describing the cash as a ransom payment.
Revolutionary Guard commanders boasted at the time that the Americans had succumbed to Iranian pressure. Tehran’s Fars news agency quoted Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi , commander of the Guard’s Basij militia, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”
Since the cash shipment, the intelligence arm of the Revolutionary Guard has arrested two more Iranian-Americans, and in recent months, has also detained dual-nationals from France, Canada and the U.K.
Tom Cotton, a Republican Senator from Arkansas, and a fierce opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, accused U.S. President Barack Obama of paying “a $1.7 billion ransom to the Ayatollahs for U.S. hostages.” James Lankford, a Republican Senator from Oklahoma said, “Subsidizing Iran’s military is perhaps the worst use of taxpayer dollars ever by an American president.”