Iran's ex-president writes Obama urging return of assets

State Department: Iran money was not ransom payment
State Department: Iran money was not ransom payment


    State Department: Iran money was not ransom payment


State Department: Iran money was not ransom payment 01:08

Story highlights

  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demanded Obama overturn a Supreme Court ruling allowing an asset seizure
  • The White House didn't comment, but it's unlikely Obama would consider such a move

Edgartown, Massachusetts (CNN)Iran's former hard-line leader is pressuring President Barack Obama to return billions of dollars in seized Iranian assets, though it's almost certain his appeals will go nowhere.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president from 2005-2013, demanded in a letter that Obama overturn an April US Supreme Court ruling that allowed the seizure of $2 billion worth of Iranian assets to compensate victims of a 1983 terror attack.
    In his entreaty, Ahmadinejad suggested Obama had failed to deliver on a promise to improve ties to Iran by allowing the court decision to stand.
    "It is with great regret that your explicitly announced undertakings ... including your public as well as written announcements to mend ties with the Iranian nation, and to make compensation for about sixty years of oppression and cruelty by different American governments against the Iranian nation, were never fulfilled," he wrote.
    America's high court agreed earlier this year with a lower court decision permitting seizure of the US-held assets to compensate families of a bombing attack on a US Marine barracks in Lebanon. The 1983 bombing, which killed 241 US service personnel, was traced to Hezbollah. In 2003, a US federal judge ruled the terrorist group carried out the attack at the direction of the Iranian government.
    "Though I believe the Iranian nation will itself restore its right, I passionately advise you not to let the historical defamation and bitter incident be recorded under your name," Ahmadinejad wrote in the letter, which was reported by the semi-official Iranian news agency Tasnim.
    The White House declined the comment on the letter Tuesday, and it's not known whether the actual missive ever made it into the President's hands. Obama and his family are in the middle of a two-week-long vacation on Martha's Vineyard.
    In the letter, Ahmadinejad didn't specify precisely how Obama should return Iran's assets, and it's unlikely the President would consider such a move.
    Obama's administration came under scrutiny last week after details emerged about a $400 million cash payment made to Iran on the same day the country released a handful of American hostages. The administration insists the payment -- part of a separate decades-old settlement for an arms deal -- was negotiated separately from the talks on releasing the prisoners.
    The payment was acknowledged by the President and reported upon in January, but new information about the manner of delivery -- including wooden palettes of cash being unloaded from a military plane in Tehran -- triggered accusations the US had paid ransom money for captive Americans.
    "It wasn't a secret. We were completely open with everybody about it," Obama said during a press conference at the Pentagon last week. "We do not pay ransom for hostages."
    Ahmadinejad's successor, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, is a more moderate leader who helped shepherd the diplomatic agreement over Iran's nuclear program. Barred by term limits from running again in 2013, Ahmadinejad is able to challenge Rouhani for the presidency again when the country votes in May.