Naghdi’s argument suggests that the Iranian-Americans arrested were actually agents of infiltration sent by the United States in order to influence Iranian society and decision-making centers in the country.
Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi, culture minister when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president, also reiterated the claim that the $1.7 billion was given to Iran in exchange for the release of prisoners during a live television debate with Rouhani’s media adviser, Hesam al-Din Ashna.
A video report by Tasnim News Agency titled “The Exchange of Four American Spies” also covered the payment of the settlement. The report claimed that negotiations over the release of prisoners were done quietly at the orders of the United States, given the bitter history of former Democratic President Jimmy Carter’s failed hostage negotiations.
The video claimed that Iran’s conditions for the release of the Iranian-Americans were the release of Iranians held in the United States for sanctions violations, the removal of a number of individuals from the list of sanctions violators and the payment of $1.7 billion. The video claimed that the United States had asked that the details of the deal be kept quiet in consideration of the upcoming presidential election. Most striking, the video showed pallets of cash sitting on airplanes.
Members of the Rouhani administration have been keen to stress that the payment — much like the nuclear deal — was the result of productive negotiations.