World Court to Rule on Iran's Billions Frozen in US
The International Court of Justice will on Wednesday give its decision on a bid by Iran to recover USD 2 billion in frozen assets that the United States says must be paid to victims of attacks blamed on Tehran.
The case threatens to cause further bad blood after a decision in October when the Hague-based tribunal ordered Washington to lift nuclear-related sanctions on humanitarian goods for Iran.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington are already high around the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution and a Middle East meeting in Warsaw where the United States aims to pile pressure on Iran.
The US Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that Iran must give the cash to survivors and relatives of victims of attacks blamed on Tehran, including the 1983 bombing of a US Marine barracks in Beirut.
Iran said the US decision to freeze the funds breached 1955 Treaty of Amity with the United States, an agreement signed before Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution severed relations between the countries.
The United States announced after the sanctions case that it was immediately pulling out of the Treaty of Amity.
At the last hearing on Iran's funds appeal in October at the Hague-based tribunal, Washington said Iran has "unclean hands" and that its alleged support for terrorism should disqualify the case from being heard.
The court will now rule on the "preliminary objections" of the United States to Iran's case, it said in a statement.
The ICJ is the top court of the United Nations and was set up after World War II to resolve disputes between member states. Its rulings are binding and cannot be appealed, but it has no means of enforcing them.
Relations between Washington and Tehran have been strained since US President Donald Trump's decision last year to pull out of a "terrible" international nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions.
The 2015 nuclear deal had unblocked billions of dollars in other Iranian funds.
In Poland this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will use a two-day conference of foreign ministers to try to rally the world behind increasing pressure on Iran and supporting Israel, although turnout could be thin.
The Trump administration has also found itself at odds with its European allies over the nuclear deal, with EU powers launching a mechanism to bypass sanctions.
But with Iran's clerical regime facing economic difficulties the case on the frozen funds remains crucial.
Iran first lodged the lawsuit in June 2016, accusing Washington of breaking the decades-old amity treaty dating from the time of the Shah, who was deposed in the revolution.
Tehran said the United States had illegally seized Iranian financial assets and those of Iranian companies.
However in October, Richard Visek, a US State Department legal official, told the ICJ that "Iran comes to the court with unclean hands—indeed, it is a remarkable show of bad faith.
"The actions at the root of this case centre on Iran's support for international terrorism... Iran's bad acts include supports for terrorist bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and airline hijackings," he said at the time.
Pompeo had added in October the time that "we owe it to our fallen heroes, their families, and the victims of Iran's terrorist activities to vigorously defend against the Iranian regime's meritless claims... in The Hague.”
The US Supreme Court ruled in April 2016 that the USD 2 billion in frozen Iranian assets should be paid to about 1,000 survivors and relatives of those killed in attacks blamed on the Islamic Republic.
As well as the Beirut Marine barracks attack, in which 241 soldiers were killed, these also included the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.
Photo Credit: Wikicommons