Purely Political, By James Buckley
For those wondering if we’ll get out of Afghanistan alive after the events of the past few days, my guess is, yes, we’ll get out despite the already heavy toll the recent suicide bombs have taken. The Taliban will see to it.
Why, you may wonder.
Well, for me, it’s difficult to forget the photographs of the piles of cash — $1.7 billion of it — stacked ever so neatly on wooden pallets at the airport in Tehran at the conclusion of the nuclear deal struck between the U.S. and Iran back in the Obama administration. The agreement was hammered out by then Secretary of State John Kerry with his counterpart in Iran. Piles of Swiss francs, euros, British pounds and other currencies stacked some six feet high being unloaded into the hands of jellaba-garbed recipients in the dead of night.
When I tell what few liberal friends I have left about this, they shake their heads in denial, never having heard or seen anything about the transactions before. But initial reports from various news outlets (in addition to Fox) did in fact cover it, however briefly. Here’s how two liberal media outlets did:
CBS NEWS REPORTS
CBS News, on Aug. 24, 2016, carried the following Associated Press account headlined “Iran Payment Used As Leverage For Hostages.”
“The Obama administration said Wednesday it paid $1.3 billion in interest to Iran in January to resolve a decades-old dispute over an undelivered military sale, two days after allowing $400 million in cash to fly to Tehran.
“State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau says the U.S. couldn’t say more about the Jan. 19 payments because of diplomatic sensitivities. They involved 13 separate payments of $99,999,999.99 and a final payment of about $10 million. There was no explanation for the Treasury Department keeping the individual transactions under $100 million.”
CNN reported the all-cash transfer to Tehran on Aug. 4, 2016 thusly:
“The Obama administration secretly arranged a plane delivery of $400 million in cash on the same day Iran released four American prisoners and formally implemented the nuclear deal, US officials confirmed Wednesday.
“… The money was flown into Iran on wooden pallets stacked with Swiss francs, euros and other currencies as the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement resolving claims at an international tribunal at The Hague over a failed arms deal under the time of the Shah.”
The Obama administration claimed it had to pay in cash because Iran had no relationship with the international banking community.
Had not some enterprising journalist filmed the delivery, the U.S. public and the rest of the world would probably never have learned about the middle-of-the-night flights. (I believe more than one small plane was required to bring the cash, but I could be wrong about that).
In any case, the cash transactions in Teheran surely came to the attention of the then vice president and now president of the United States, Mr. Joseph Biden. And I can’t help thinking that this is exactly how the Biden administration is probably handling the current Afghanistan situation: with planeloads (though a train or even a caravan of trucks might be more appropriate and less visible) of negotiable and untraceable currency.
While the U.S. still has access to Kabul via air, any truck convoy or train would be guarded and would have to be approved by various Taliban checkpoints all along the way. Which would help keep the payments a secret.
No one ever explained how $1.7 billion in cash was sitting around somewhere, completely unaccounted for by general banking regulations for the Iranians to receive back in 2016. But it seems very likely that Mr. Biden and some of his closest aides know the source of that cash and have access to it.
Now, this is all purely speculation on my part, but I hope you’ll come along for the ride. If, let’s say everything has gone pretty smoothly and most of the Westerners have been brought to safety except for say, 2,000 of them, who are then allowed to leave after Tuesday’s deadline, at a cost to the U.S. of $100,000 per head, that would come to just $200 million. If, for every Afghan who wanted to leave or has left before the deadline, the cost could have been as much as $1 million each. If we put that number at 5,000, that would require an additional payment by the U.S. of for a grand total of $5 billion, 200 million. A pittance really. Even if there were 20,000 Afghans spirited out of town, that would still only come to $20 billion.
These figures may all be skewed to the upside or downside, but you get the point. It’s all about the money, especially the easy cash.
If these payments have been or can be done in secret, and (I’m guessing here), the Taliban would also like to keep the payoffs — or at least the total amount — a secret, as a lot of that money will go into leadership pockets for a job well done. More importantly, Mr. Biden will be the hero of the moment, especially if the amount of cash the U.S. had to scrape together to make it happen can be kept under wraps.
I do believe this: that large sums of money have been dispatched to Taliban leaders for their “cooperation.”
That’s this week’s conspiracy theory, friends. Tune in next week when we’ll try to examine the outcome and the fallout of the upcoming Aug. 31 “deadline” more closely.
James Buckley is a longtime Montecito resident. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.