President Obama's policy has emboldened terrorists and 'made our country less safe'
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The safe return of American hostages from Iran should be celebrated, but we can’t ignore what we gave up for their return: $400 million in cold, hard, untraceable cash to the terror-sponsoring ayatollahs. We turned a centuries-old precedent of not paying ransom on its head.
By President Obama’s own admission, paying ransom is a dangerous, unwise gamble that “risks endangering more Americans and funding the very terrorism that we’re trying to stop.”
It’s important to remember we shouldn’t have been in the position of negotiating for the release of these hostages in the first place. When Obama initiated talks with Iran, he had the upper hand. Its economy was in tatters from years of congressionally imposed sanctions.
The safe release of these hostages should have been a precondition before we even considered coming to the negotiating table. Instead, he left the hostages in Iran and agreed to a nuclear deal that gave them everything and us nothing.
Once that deal was signed, Obama was going to do whatever it took to preserve what he views as a cornerstone of his legacy. He has continually ignored Iran’s illicit behaviors and bowed to their demands — including sending them a $400 million ransom payment.
He said the payment was made to settle an old debt. But it’s difficult to believe a 37-year-old claim was suddenly resolved overnight. And if that is the case, why then, Mr. President, was this amount shipped in cash in an unmarked plane the same day the hostages were released? Why has one of the hostages stated that Iran would not let them leave while they were waiting for a second plane? And why did your own Justice Department object to the exchange?
The consequences of this ransom are real. Since it was made, Iran has taken two new U.S. hostages. The case of Robert Levinson also remains unresolved. Internationally, this has fundamentally changed the way we are viewed by murderous states, terrorist organizations and their proxies.
They see this payment for what it is: ransom. That puts U.S. lives at risk and makes our country less safe.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.