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IRGC Spokesman Rejects Claim Iran Took Ransom From US And Qatar

Hassan Abbasi, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guard, often makes very controversial claims in speeches and on television.

Speaking to Sepah News, the IRGC news agency on Sunday the Revolutionary Guard's spokesman denied the claim of a former commander who had accused the elite military of making money by taking hostages for ransom.

A viral video with English subtitles on social media which shows Hassan Abbasi, a former IRGC commander and a hardliner politician making a speech. In the speech, Abbasi says that in one instance the Guard "arrested a spy", presumably the American-Iranian journalist Jason Rezaian, and the United States paid $1.7b to Iran to secure his freedom. He claimed that 400 million was paid in cash.

U.S. media reported at the time that the Obama administration secretly airlifted $400 million in cash to Tehran in January 2016 at the same time as Rezaian and three Iranian-Americans were released, although the Obama administration later said the two events were unconnected.

The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement that the Obama administration reached with The Islamic Republic to resolve a decades-old failed arms deal signed during Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s reign, long before the Islamic Revolution.

Twitter post with the controversial video.

Without naming Abbasi the Guard's Spokesman Ramezan Sharif told Sepah News that the claim IRGC makes money by such acts has given excuses to those who wish ill for the Guard. Sharif also called on the authorities to investigate the person who made such claims and said the "expert in question" has a record of making some "illogical comments".

Abbasi who often speaks at the rallies of Basij militia and Khamenei's supporters and state-run television programs was sued for his controversial comments by the Iranian army in 2016 and by the Guards in August 2019. The Iranian Intelligence Ministry sued Abbasi who is an ardent critic of President Hassan Rouhani in 2017. Hardliners with influence in the courts and the Judiciary have always ensured that Abbasi does not stay in prison for more than a few days.

In his speech Abbasi claimed that in early January Qatar paid $3b "blood money" for the Qods (Quds) Force Commander "martyr Qassem Soleimani".

During the visit of the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to Tehran, in a report on 12 January, Middle East Online claimed that several sources had said the Emir was in Tehran to offer the Iranian President $3b in compensation for the 176 passengers who lost their lives when Iran shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane.

This has not been confirmed by any other source and its is not clear why Qatar would pay any money as a party not involved in the Ukrainian plane incident. But widespread speculation on social media pose the theory that Qatar paid to calm Iran down after Soleimani's killing.

The attack on the plane happened only a few hours after Iran carried out a missile attack on Iraqi bases hosting American forces in retaliation for the targeted killing of General Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3.

On January 13 Iran's Cabinet Spokesman refuted the claim of compensation payment for the victims of the crash.