The administration released seven individuals, six who were Iranian-Americans, on Jan. 17, 2016, in exchange for four U.S. citizens, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. The former president also gave Iran a $1.7 billion cash payment, dropped charges, and cancelled Interpol notices on 14 other fugitives also involved in smuggling.
Obama officials attempted to present the seven individuals as “civilians” charged with trade embargo offenses, but they were actually involved in arms smuggling on behalf of the Iranian military. Obama’s Justice Department prosecuted some of these individuals for posing a threat to national security.
“They didn’t just dismiss a bunch of innocent business guys,” a former federal law enforcement supervisor involved in investigations on Iranian arms smuggling said.
“And then they didn’t give a full story of it.”
The move upset many officials within the justice system.
“Of course it pissed people off, but it’s more significant that these guys were freed and that people were killed because of the actions of one of them,” said the supervisor.
Amin Ravan was one of those charged with smuggling military equipment for Iran. U.S. authorities believe he was part of a ring that helped Iran provide high-tech components for improvised explosive devices to Shiite militias in Iraq. Iranian-backed Shiite militias are believed to have killed hundreds of U.S. troops with what are now known as explosively-formed penetrators (EFPs) during the Iraqi insurgency.
The administration released three other individuals who were involved with illegally procuring more than $24 million of technology for Iran’s nuclear program.
Several of the fourteen individuals who had their charges dropped were involved in supporting the Quds Force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ branch responsible for supporting Iran’s terrorist proxies across the globe.
“This is a scandal,” Valerie Lincy, executive director of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, told Politico.
“The cases bear all the hallmarks of exactly the kinds of national security threats we’re still going after. It’s stunning and hard to understand why we would do this.”