The bill was jointly filed by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and Sen. John Cronyn (R-TX) on May 25. Dubbed the "No Impunity for Iranian Aggression at Sea Act," the legislation seeks to compel President Barack Obama's administration to certify whether federal funds were doled out to Iran as a "ransom payment."
You see, on Jan. 12, Iran seized two U.S. Navy patrol boats and 10 crew members who were described as "trespassing" in Iranian waters near a major naval base. The officers were released a day later, on Jan. 13.
But on Jan. 14, the White House mysteriously forked over $1.7 billion to Tehran. The disbursement was made under the pretense that it was simply settling a long-running claim over military equipment back pay.
Still, the coincidental timing raised eyebrows.
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White House and State Department officials denied any connection between the payout and the prisoners' release. And the money, officials from the president's administration claimed, came from a permanent Treasury Department fund established to cover court judgments and settlements.
Republican lawmakers pushed back. They blasted the administration for negotiating with terrorists and endangering Americans abroad by creating incentive among enemies to take hostages.
Then they asked for proof that the two incidents were not, in fact, linked.
"There's no way the recent events occurred randomly," Pompeo wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry the week the payments were made, a Jan. 21 article in The Washington Post reports. "We will do our best to find out if this was in our interest," he vowed.
With his new congressional bill, Pompeo is making good on his word.
Alongside compelling the White House to disclose information about the $1.7 billion, the legislation would also level sanctions against Iran for a possible breach of Geneva Convention rules governing legal military detainment.
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- The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Payment of $1.7 Billion to Iran Raises Questions of Ransom