by Joseph Klein
Frozen assets and blatant double standards.
Iran has filed a complaint against the United States with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the seizure of two billion dollars in frozen Iranian assets, which are being held at Citibank in the U.S. The purpose of the seizure was to compensate American victims, their estate representatives, or surviving family members for the harms suffered as a result of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks. The majority of claims were in connection with the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed the seizure was “illegal.” He said that the complaint his government filed with the ICJ was in response to “the confiscation and theft of $2 billion of the property of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI).” Iran’s filing followed a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court approving the seizure under U.S. law and the right of those damaged by the attacks to seek recourse to the seized assets.
Rouhani denied that his country had any involvement in the 1983 bombing that killed 241 Marines. Rouhani is lying. Hezbollah carried out the attack in Lebanon. Iran created Hezbollah, funds Hezbollah and arms Hezbollah. For all intents and purposes Hezbollah is Iran’s terrorist arm.
Iran claims that its state-owned bank is entitled to sovereign immunity under international law and, therefore, its assets located in the United States should be untouchable. In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif asked the Secretary General to use his “good offices in order to induce the U.S. Government to adhere to its international obligations.” He complained to Ban of “the catastrophic implications of the U.S. blatant disrespect for state immunity, which will cause systematic erosion of this fundamental principle.”
However, it is Iran, not the United States, whom has shown blatant disrespect for international law. Iran has flouted successive UN Security Council resolutions, including most recently with its test firing of missiles designed to carry nuclear weapons. And it has funded global terrorism. In fact, the Central Bank of Iran has sent money to the Iranian regime’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah through a subordinate state-owned banking entity, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. To the extent Iran’s state-owned banking system has been used as a means to finance the government’s sponsorship of terrorism including by its proxy Hezbollah, its central bank should not be permitted to hide behind the privilege of sovereign immunity.
In addition to the bogus assertion of sovereign immunity, Iran’s complaint to the ICJ shamelessly alleges “violations by the Government of the United States of America of the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights between Iran and the United States of America which was signed in Tehran on 15 August 1955 and entered into force on 16 June 1957.”
Iran’s theory is that the seizing the assets of its state bank violates the U.S.’s obligation under the treaty to protect its property located within U.S. territory.
Iran’s use of this treaty to bolster its claim is a cruel joke. It apparently was not so concerned about “amity” and “consular rights” when its supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini proclaimed back in 1979 the Iranian state's endorsement of both the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the detention of hostages by the regime’s supporters.
The regime refused to take part in proceedings that the United States had brought before the ICJ on account of this illegal seizure and detention. The regime rejected the ICJ’s judgment against it, claiming that the ICJ had no jurisdiction over the matter. It refused to take responsibility for directly compensating the hostages for physical and emotional harm inflicted on them in the course of their captivity. It has taken more than three decades for the hostages to have any real prospect for compensation, only because of Congressional legislation allowing the proceeds from a $9 billion penalty paid by the French bank BNP Paribas for violating sanctions against Iran, Cuba and Sudan to be used for that purpose.
Now the Iranian regime is seeking redress from the same international court it had once so cavalierly spurned. It wants to use the international court to prevent other American victims of Iranian sponsored terrorist acts to receive compensation for the harm they have suffered. Iran is coming to the ICJ to ask for its help with what the law calls “unclean hands.” The court’s answer to Iran must be a firm no.
The Obama administration supported the seizure of the Iranian central bank’s two billion dollars in frozen assets for use in compensating claimants harmed by Iran’s sponsorship of terrorist attacks. However, this is a drop in the bucket compared to the windfall Iran is receiving as a result of the lifting of sanctions and of easing Iran’s ability to access frozen assets in banks across the globe by loosening restrictions on dollar-denominated transactions. “It is fair for Iran to get what it deserves because it kept its part of the bargain to date with respect to the nuclear agreement,” Secretary of State John Kerry said last April. Thomas Shannon, the State Department’s undersecretary for political affairs, told Congress that the administration was proceeding to help Iran get its hands on frozen assets outside the United States, which is over $100 billion, despite being aware that Iran continues to fund terrorist related activities. Before Iran is allowed to access any of its frozen assets anywhere in the world with assistance from the Obama administration, such assets should first be applied to pay all outstanding judgments against the regime arising from its past terrorist related activities.
The Obama administration has taken other steps to begin the integration of the terror-sponsoring regime into the global economic system following the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions under the terms of the nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). For example, it has cleared the way for Boeing to negotiate the sale of commercial aircraft to Iran. A White House official said that “we are not going to stand in the way of permissible business under the JCPOA.” The fact that such aircraft could be used to transport military equipment and military personnel to help terrorists such as Hezbollah has apparently eluded the Obama administration.
The Obama administration made a very limited exception to its appeasement policy towards Iran with the freezing of the two billion dollars in assets held at Citibank that Iran’s central bank is contesting at the International Court of Justice. It would not be surprising if the Obama administration, or a successor Hillary Clinton administration, ended up folding on that dispute as well.
Joseph Klein is a Harvard-trained lawyer and the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom and Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations & Radical Islam.
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