On May 17, Iran’s Parliament approved a bill obligating the government to seek compensation from the United States for 63 years of “spiritual and material damage.” The bill passed
with 174 votes in favor, seven votes against and four abstentions. The outgoing Parliament (Majles), which is dominated by hardliners, blamed Washington for several actions against Iran:
· CIA-led 1953 coup that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh’s government and restored the monarchy
· Death of 223,600 soldiers in the Iran-Iraq War (implicating the Washington for supporting Saddam Hussein)
· Destruction of oil platforms in the late 1980s
Assassination of 17,000 people by U.S.-backed groups
· Blocking , confiscating or seizing of Iranian assets
With a new Majles due to convene on May 27, outgoing hardliners are running out of time to challenge the president’s foreign policy. Hassan Rouhani’s supporters— a loose group of reformists, centrists and moderate conservatives —will outnumber hardliners in the new Majles.
Hardliner lawmaker Hamid Rasaee proposed an amendment to have Iran seize U.S. assets passing through the Strait of Hormuz. “If the US should seek to misappropriate the Iranian nation’s assets, the strait must be turned into an insecure place for them and US vessels banned from passing through it,” he said, according to Press TV
The bill is a response to a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. On April 20, it upheld a judgment that held Iran financially responsible for terrorist attacks dating back to the 1983 Marine Corps barracks bombing in Beirut. The lead plaintiff, Deborah Peterson, is the sister of Lance Cpl. James C. Knipple, who was killed in Beirut. The court ruled 6-2 in favor of more than 1,300 relatives of the 241 service members who were killed in Lebanon as well as other victims of attacks that courts have linked to Iran, such as the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.
Iran refused to comply with past judgments, which led lawyers to search for Iranian assets held in the United States. This case, Bank Markazi (Iran’s central bank) v. Peterson, involved some $1.75 billion in bonds, plus accumulating interest, held by Citibank in New York.
Iranian officials have condemned the judgment. On April 21, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said the ruling “amounts to appropriation of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s property.” He warned that it “increases the distrust between Tehran and Washington.” In an April interview with The New Yorker
, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it is “highway robbery” and vowed to get the assets back.
Ibrahim Karkhaneh, the head of parliament’s nuclear committee, blamed
Rouhani’s administration for recent U.S. court decisions. “The Islamic Republic of Iran until now has not taken significant action against these unjust actions, and day by day these sentences in America are increasing,” he said.
Rouhani, however, did appoint a working group headed by Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayebnia to review the Supreme Court case. In a statement on May 16, it concluded, “America’s judicial system violated the principle of state immunity,” and called on the executive branch to take further action. The Supreme National Security Council voted on May 17 to file a complaint with the International Court of Justice against the United States about the Supreme Court ruling.
Photo credit: Mohammad Javad Zarif by Robin Wright