Of all Obama’s achievements, a couple come to mind that are straight out of a Hollywood movie.
The day $400 million was flown to Iran under the radar
On January 17, 2016, a jetliner loaded with $400 million in cash arrived in Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport. The cash -loaded into pallets – wasn’t in US dollars, but in Swiss francs, Euros and other foreign currencies. Coincidentally, that same day saw the release of four American hostages held by the Iranians.
The uproar from the Republicans regarding this supposed ransom payment raised several questions. Why did barrack Obama seemingly pay a ransom for the hostages?
(FYI: The Iran-Contra affair (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran–Contra_affair)
Here’s what really happened
On November 1979, Iran’s revolutionary government took 52 American hostages at the US embassy. The hostage crisis was resolved in 1981 at a conference in Algiers.
Prior to the hostage crisis , the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Pahlavi – on good terms with the US- had ordered jets and other weapons. Iran had made an advance payment of $400 million which promptly got frozen by the US during the hostage crisis. Pahlavi was subsequently toppled during the 1979 uprising and fled to the US.
With the souring of relations between the US and Iran, and sanctions imposed by the US, the weapons deal was never concluded.
Fast-forword to mid 2015 where Iran has been developing nuclear weapons and 4 US hostages are being held in Tehran. In the negotiations to release the hostages, Obama used the return of the the original $400 million as leverage to secure an agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear programme. These negotiations were carried out by different teams. The financial deal called for the U.S. to refund $1.7 billion to Tehran, consisting of the original $400 million contract for military equipment, plus $1.3 billion in interest.
In Obama’s words, “Our ability to clear accounts on a number of different issues at the same time converged.”
At a news conference on January 17th 2016, President Obama declared that the U.S. was lifting the first raft of sanctions against Iran. On that day – after the jetliner arrived with the cash-the four US hostages were released whilst the U.S. freed seven Iranians detained for violating financial and other U.S. sanctions. It took 2 further trips to transport the balance of $1.3 billion.
In another case, this one more recently, Barack Obama was moved to act quickly before his successor, Donald Trump took office.
$500 million just transferred
The Paris Climate Agreement signed in 2015 aims to keep global warming “well below” 2C and aspires to keep warming to 1.5C.
The Green Climate Fund -financed by wealthy countries – was set up as part of the Paris agreement to help developing countries with adaptation towards reducing global warming.
The US committed to transferring $3bn to the fund, of which $500 million had already been paid. Trump had already indicated that the US would back out of the agreement- so funding was bound to cease.
Well, 3 days before leaving office, Obama heeded calls to help secure the future of the agreement by transferring a second $500m instalment to the Green Climate Fund.