New reports suggest that the United States did time its $400 million payment to Iran with the release of American prisoners.
The Wall Street Journal, citing U.S. officials and people familiar with the operation, reported that an Iranian cargo plane transporting the cash was allowed to take off only after the Americans were "wheels up." Sources told the Journal that Iran Air executives arranged the flight between Tehran and Geneva, Switzerland.
A U.S. official confirmed the timing with NBC News, but emphasized that it was because the U.S. wanted to make sure the Americans were safe and accounted for. The official maintained that the payment was not a ransom and, in fact, money owed to Iran following the Hague settlement.
Earlier this month, the White House said that this payment was not a ransom and part of a $1.7 billion settlement following a decades-long dispute over a failed arms deal. The State Department also said the timing of the payment and the release of detainees were not related, according to NBC News.
Following a meeting with the National Security Council this month, President Barack Obama said that "this wasn't some nefarious deal" as the payment had been announced and was not a secret.
— NBC's Abigail Williams contributed to this report.