Republican senator says ‘we didn’t have to get our guys back’ from Iran

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) speaks during an interview in his office in Chicago, June 9, 2014. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/M. SPENCER GREEN
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) speaks during an interview in his office in Chicago, June 9, 2014. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/M. SPENCER GREEN

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) is spouting Trump campaign lies.

As BuzzFeed reported, on Thursday, Kirk said that the Obama administration should not have sent a “ransom” to Iran in exchange for the release of four American prisoners back in January.

“I chair a committee of Senate Banking on international security,” Kirk said on the Steve Cochran Show on WGN Radio. “We’re going to be doing a hearing coming up on this $400 million ransom payment that was made by the administration to Iran. I would note, when we look at the details, they made the payment in cash. It was 500 euro notes and the irony is the European Union has already discontinued the 500 euro note because they worried that that note was so heavily used in drug trafficking and terror.”

“It’s just so clumsy because we had to get our guys back,” Cochran replied, “but there had to be a way to get them back without making — ”


“But you know, we didn’t have to get our guys back. We shouldn’t have paid the ransom,” Kirk interrupted. “The irony is the State Department, shortly after the payment was made, issued a worldwide travel alert to Americans saying, ‘you know there are a lot of people out there looking to kidnap an American in return for a ransom payment.’”

A portion of the interview, courtesy of Buzzfeed, appears below:


Kirk’s comments are appalling not only because he says the Obama administration should not have made an effort to release the American prisoners who were being held in Iran, but also because he is pushing forward a news story Trump made up weeks ago.

Trump first began the lie of an American “ransom” being paid to Iran in August, when he said that the Iranian government had secret footage of the United States transferring $400 million in cash to Iran.

Trump later admitted that no such footage exists. On top of that, the payment he was referring to was not ransom. The Obama administration announced the payment was being made back in January, as part of its legal obligations. As ThinkProgress previously reported:

[T]he United States wasn’t “giving” Iran money. Rather, the money was the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement resolving an outstanding claim at an international tribunal at The Hague. The United States had kept money it had received from Iran to purchase military equipment before the 1979 Revolution and never returned it. The Hague ruled that it had to do so — plus interest.

In other words, after over 30 years, Iran is finally receiving part of its own money back because international law said it should. This was an issue long before Clinton was Secretary of State and before Obama was president. The United States is not giving Iran money, as part of the Iran deal or otherwise. It’s returning it as part of a legal obligation.

It’s surprising that Kirk, who became the first U.S. Senator to un-endorse Donald Trump, is so eager to use his talking points on Iran. And his comments on the payment being made in cash — and “500 euro notes” — belie a startling unfamiliarity with U.S. sanctions on Iran, which limit Iran’s access to U.S. dollars and the international financial system.


Kirk’s opponent in the upcoming election, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), already issued a response to his comments, calling his disregard for the former American prisoners held in Iran unacceptable.

“Mark Kirk was in the Navy and he should know that our country doesn’t leave its people behind,” the statement read. “I’m sure thankful my buddies didn’t forget that when my Black Hawk was shot down over enemy territory. Saying we don’t have an obligation to ‘get our guys back’ from a hostile country like Iran is unacceptable. Whenever Americans are imprisoned by our adversaries, we don’t leave them behind. That’s not who we are.”

The United States House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) both introduced legislation earlier this week to censure the Obama administration for the payments, despite the U.S. legal obligation.