Wednesday’s wall surface Street Journal contains what sounds prefer a pretty damning revelation. The story, through Jay Solomon and Carol Lee, reveals the the us quietly payment Iran $1.3 billion in international cash. Sounds prefer a scandal, right?

Republicans certainly think so. House foreign Affairs Committee chair Ed Royce has actually introduced a bill aimed at blocking similar payments in the future, saying that the payment was component of a ransom for number of Americans detained in Iran. “The Obama administration forked end a massive cash ransom to Iran, emboldening the world’s leading state sponsor the terror and putting more lives at risk,” Royce stated in a statement.

You can likewise expect come hear Donald trumped renew his strikes on the administration’s Iran transaction at a televised town hall meeting Wednesday night devoted to national security. Earlier this week, Trump, in his commonly understated way, warned the the pact “is walking to destroy Israel — uneven I get elected.”

But the wall surface Street newspaper story is in reality describing a payment that President Obama announced back in January. The news right here is the the payment had currently been ceded — i beg your pardon is come say this is a story around details that timing and also how the cash was delivered.

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And, as Solomon and Lee write, the payment to be the an outcome of one agreed negotiation to a 35-year case in global court. It had nothing come do, as Royce says, with any "ransom" payment through Iran.

Once you know these facts, you"ll recognize that this isn’t in reality a story around a scandalous Obama administration payment to Iran. That a story about the means Washington’s conflict over Iran is fundamentally broken.

The really story that the $1.3 billion

an pro-revolution Iranian mrs in Tehran in 1979. (Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images) In very simple terms, this payment is the an initial installment the a refund for united state weapons the Iran purchased yet that America never delivered. It starts in 1979, the year that the Iranian Revolution.

In November 1979, a group loyal come the revolutionary regime took 52 americans hostage in ~ the united state Embassy in Tehran. In response, the United states severed diplomatic relationships with Iran and froze Iranian legacy in America.

Crucially, the united States halted a delivery of fighter jets the Iran’s pre-revolution government had already paid $400 million for. Generally the us would have actually returned the money if it wasn’t going to supply the planes, since countries don’t just break officially agreements like that. Yet the US government had currently frozen Iranian legacy in the United states as punishment for the hostage-taking — and that had the $400 million.

The hostage dilemm was ultimately resolved in 1981, in ~ a conference in Algiers. However the Algiers Accords didn’t solve every outstanding issue — consisting of the legal condition of the $400 million.

Instead, the accord set up an global court, based in the Hague, to attend to any legal insurance claims that the federal governments of Iran and also the United states had against each other, or that individual citizens of either country had versus the various other country.

This court, called the Iran–United States claims Tribunal, functioned as a kind of binding arbitration. To resolve cases, the associated parties might either negotiate a settlement out that court or take it it to a panel comprised of 3 US-appointed judges, 3 Iranian-appointed judges, and three neutral judges. The panel would then hear the case and issue a binding ruling.

This process, together you might guess, was very, very slow. By the time Obama’s 2nd term in office began, the tribunal still had actually not come to a ruling on the concern of the $400 million. At some time afterward, the linked Press’s Matt Lee and Bradley Klapper report, the US federal government apparently concluded that it to be going to lose the situation — and lose big: Iran to be seeking $10 exchange rate in today’s dollars.

"US officials had actually expected a judgment on the Iranian insurance claim from the tribunal any time, and feared a judgment that would have actually made the interest payments lot higher," Lee and Klapper write.

So the Obama administration decided to clear up out the court, opening up negotiations v Iran top top the regards to the settlement. That did this at the very same time it was negotiating the nuclear deal and the return of 4 US citizens who had actually been detained by Iran an ext recently.

However, the civilization working on the nuclear deal and the prisoner release were various from the team functioning on the court case approximately the weapons money — some of the latter group had been connected with the claims tribunal for years.

By January 2016, the countries had win a deal — the united state would pay Iran $1.7 billion, which quantities to around $300 million in attention on peak of the originally frozen legacy (accounting because that inflation).

This settlement was announced the same day in January as Iran received its very first round of penalty relief from the Iran deal.

The transaction was paid in installments, v $400 million gift handed end to Iran top top the same day that the US detainees were exit (January 17). The following $1.3 billion, according to Solomon and also Lee Wednesday’s report, was paid over the course of the next 19 days.

The reason this to be done in installments is that united state law avoids the US federal government from giving Iran dollars, therefore the federal government had to scrape together foreign currency. Getting together huge amounts of foreign cash is tough even because that the US federal government — thus the temporary installment plan.

So there you have actually it. The $1.3 billion payment, i beg your pardon sounds yes, really shady the end of context, was in reality the end of a boring, decades-old worldwide legal case totally unrelated come the hot-button nuclear and prisoner issues.

Why would certainly anyone think this is scandalous?

john Kerry and also Iranian international Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif. (Pool/Getty Images) almost immediately after the $1.7 billion transaction was announced, doubters began suggesting that every was not as it seemed. The timing of the decades-old tools payment settlement and the hostage release said that that wasn’t simply a negotiation on a legal worry — it was a ransom payment.

"A deal that sent $1.7 exchange rate in U.S. Funds to Iran, announced alongside the freeing of five Americans from Iranian jails, has arised as a brand-new flashpoint between a case in Tehran the the transaction price to a ransom payment," Solomon, the newspaper reporter, wrote at the time.

But there was no straight evidence to back up this theory. The speculation around timing was just that — speculation.

Moreover, the an easy logic of it no make any kind of sense. Iran was going to obtain that money ago no issue what with the arbitration procedure — most likely more, if the Obama management was right. Why would it relax potentially valuable hostages in exchange because that money it would have acquired otherwise? Iran would have to be the world dumbest hostage taker.

Several recent wall Street newspaper pieces, both through Solomon and Lee, attempted to clarify what in reality happened. The core fact uncovered through Solomon and Lee is the the united state refused to supply the first $400 million payment fan under the negotiation until that was certain that Iran had actually upheld its finish of the cheap on the prisoner deal.

"US officials wouldn"t allow Iranians take regulate of the money till a Swiss air Force plane carrying three freed american departed indigenous Tehran top top Jan. 17," Solomon and Lee write. "Once the happened, an Iranian cargo airplane was permitted to carry the cash residence from a Geneva airport the day."

In August, a State room spokesperson evidenced Solomon and Lee"s straightforward finding on record. Previously, the management had denied any type of link in between the prisoner release and also the arms transaction settlement.

"State room spokesman man Kirby ... Said the U.S. Withheld the distribution of the cash together leverage till Iran allowed the americans to leave the country," the AP"s Klapper reports.

This information, however, doesn"t quantity to proof of a ransom. Remember, the US had already agreed to salary Iran the money as part of the settlement. The just question to be timing.

What occurred is the the US made decision to postpone the payment it had already promised to make till it was sure Iran to be upholding the prisoner release deal. Iran wasn"t obtaining any added money in exchange for prisoners (it actually gained prisoners in exchange because that prisoners). The US government just decided it couldn"t to trust Iran, necessarily, so that withheld complying with through on the arms deal negotiation until it was certain Iran was cooperating top top the sinner deal.

In other words, because that the $400 million come actually have counted together a "ransom," the us would have needed to agree to salary Iran $400 million specifically in exchange for the release of its prisoners. Yet that"s not what happened here. Just the timing of the payment was connected to the release.

Wednesday’s story, around the remaining $1.3 billion, is also sillier. Every Solomon and also Lee’s piece uncovers is the the negotiation had currently been paid — it find no new evidence linking it to the sinner exchange fairly than the court case. And also yet the authors sneakily imply that it’s part of the controversy surrounding the former: “The <$1.3 billion> revelations come as Congress returns from a summer recess v Republicans vowing to seek charges that the White residence paid ransom to Tehran.”

What"s more, the Iranian negotiators top top the sinner exchange were not the same negotiators affiliated in the tools deal settlement. Therefore, castle couldn"t make requirements of the united state team negotiating the tools deal settlement, which method they couldn"t negotiate a quid agree quo of money for hostage release, the an interpretation of a ransom.

" the contrary of ransom," writes Matt Duss, the president of the foundation for Middle east Peace. "Obama acquired Iran to resolve for fraction of money that could"ve gotten, and also got prisoners ago as well."

One could make the argument, i suppose, the the timing was a form the ransom. By transferring the $400 million payment top top the exact same day as the sinner release, Iranian public official could claim they obtained the money as part of a ransom deal, and thus make the United states look weak.

Indeed, that"s what part Iranian officials have done. "Iranian press reports have quoted an elderly Iranian defense public representative describing the cash together a ransom payment," Solomon and Lee write.

Yet it"s entirely predictable that Iranian officials would spin this illustration as a hostage payment. Law so renders them look strong to their residential audience and America look at weak. We just shouldn"t take Iranian rotate at challenge value — specifically when the contradicted by elevation evidence.

In reality, the Iranians might have made inflated claims about the payment no matter when the cash to be delivered. If the Obama management had forked over $400 million six months later, those same Iranian defense officials could have lied and also said the was part of the prisoner release deal.

This lie no significantly an ext credible just because the cash was delivered on the exact same day. Nor need to American media and also politicians aid validate the Iranian lied by dealing with Iranian propaganda as actual evidence.

The bottom line, then, is that none that the report on this topic has uncovered real evidence that the us agreed to give Iran money the it wouldn’t have obtained otherwise as component of the hostage relax deal. There’s exhilaration here, yet no fire.

This shows exactly how our Iran debate is broken

one anti-deal protest in times Square. (Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images) yes a bigger trouble here. Due to the fact that this no really around a collection of cash payments to Iran — it’s around the essentially broken means we talk around US-Iran relations.

Every debate about Iran in Washington nowadays is yes, really a debate about the Iran atom deal.

Basically, one camp claims the US need to welcome a settlement that defuses tensions through Iran top top this one certain issue, when the various other sees Iran together a fundamentally hostile actor the cannot — and should not — be jeopardized with.

That 2nd camp look at the transaction as a large step toward the us accommodating Iran much more broadly in the middle East, i beg your pardon they think would it is in a disaster of epos proportions. So they campaign, relentlessly, to threaten the nuclear transaction — through the support of most of the Republican Party.

Indira Lakshmanan has actually a revealing story in Politico top top the "plan come undo the Iranian nuclear deal" by avoiding Iran from reentering the worldwide economy, and the "constellation of push groups, analysts, lobbyists and lawmakers" who are difficult at work trying to do it happen.

The problem, though, is that the nuclear deal is actually working pretty well.

When you speak to technical experts, they call you that Iran is abiding through the deal’s terms. The Iranians have cut down on the variety of centrifuges, limited their stockpile of enriched uranium, and also done plenty of other points that have made it much harder for them to build a nuclear bomb.

"I think it"s gone very well," Jeffrey Lewis, director of the eastern Asia Nonproliferation regimen at the Middlebury institute of international Studies at Monterey, called me on the deal’s one-year anniversary in July. "The has actually been regularly reporting ~ above Iran"s compliance, and Iran is complying with the deal."

This create a significant problem because that team anti-deal. Castle need proof that the deal isn’t working and should it is in undone, yet the facts around the deal’s core provisions don’t assistance that. The an outcome is an endless deluge the spin. Every brand-new piece of information on Iran or the nuclear transaction becomes evidence that Iran is angry or can not be trusted.

Since the deal, there’s been a slew that bad-sounding story being be crazy wildly to build a narrative of a damaged nuclear deal and also an Obama management kowtowing come Iran. A couple of examples:

These stories are all extremely technical: In order to know the truth, you require to understand a fair amount about how nuclear inspections work or the terms of the nuclear deal. Without the knowledge, it’s basic to watch a sample of Iranian malfeasance and violation the the regards to the deal — which is exactly the story deal movie critics are trying to tell.

This many recent debate over the alleged "hostage" payment fits this pattern perfectly. The truth of the case is very technical and also boring; nobody cares about a 35-year-old international litigation process.

And a surface-level look at the truth — the us withheld a payment the $400 million in secret cash until Iran released united state prisoners, and also then transport over another $1.3 billion in the next few days — confirms the rigid of the Obama management making absurd concessions to Iran.

Yet when boring truth meet interesting spin, exciting spin often wins out. Therefore you’ve got Mark Dubowitz, the executive, management director that the foundation for the Defense that Democracies and one that the leaders of the initiative to torpedo the deal, claiming the the whole $1.7 billion to be a huge ransom payment.

If girlfriend weren’t adhering to this debate an extremely closely, friend wouldn’t understand why he was wrong. You would conclude the the US has "once again" do embarrassing concessions to Iran — a suggest that Republicans, transaction critics, and Obama adversaries are just too happy come amplify.

I’m not trying to say the Iranians are innocent little lambs. Iran is most absolutely a very, an extremely bad actor — that is dispersing sectarian violence in Iraq (and elsewhere), funding anti-Israel terror groups, and also devoting tremendous military resources come propping up Bashar al-Assad’s murderous routine in Syria. The nuclear deal hasn’t made Iran into a pressure for stability, as part deal supporters in the Obama management hoped, and also it probably won’t.

These are real, serious foreign policy troubles for the joined States. Yet when our Iran conflict focuses on misleading atom inspection minutiae or even if it is the Obama management is "kowtowing" come Iran with things prefer the alleged hostage payment, we aren’t having actually a severe conversation about how to attend to Iran’s actually negative policies.

Instead, we’re debating an countless drumbeat of misleading stories designed just to threaten the atom deal and faith in the Obama administration’s negotiating prowess. The ransom faux scandal is just the recent such story in this pattern.

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This no a helpful method of talking around America’s Iran policy, and also it needs to stop.