Can Iran sue the US for Coup & supporting Saddam in Iran-Iraq War?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Iranian members of parliament have approved the details of a bill that insists US compensate Iran for its crimes against that country.

The bill comes as a result of a $2 billion judgment against Iran entered by a US court and backed by an act of the US Congress, on behalf of the families of Marines killed in a Beirut bombing in 1983. Iran was allegedly behind the attack, though responsibility for it was attributed to a fundamentalist Lebanese Shiite splinter group that was a predecessor of Hizbullah.

BBC Monitoring translated from the website of the Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency (ICANA) in Persian 0622 gmt 17 May 16:

“The bill is entitled “Requiring the government to pursue compensation for damages incurred as a result of US actions and crimes against Iran and Iranian nationals”.

It was unveiled following a controversial US Supreme Court ruling that allows the use of nearly two billion dollars from Iran’s frozen assets as compensation for US “victims of terrorist acts sponsored by Iran”.

Of the 203 MPs present at the open session, 131 voted “Yes”, 10 “No”, and nine abstained.

Details of the bill

Article 1 of the bill, which was passed on 17 May, lists the following nine events as instances of “US crimes”:

“1) Financial and non-financial damages incurred as a consequence of the 1953 coup d’etat [that removed popular democratic leader Mohammad Mossaddeq from power];

“2) Financial and non-financial damages incurred as a consequence of the Nozheh [Nojeh] coup d’etat [a foiled attempt in 1980 by a group of armed forces personnel that sought to topple the newly formed Islamic Republic];

“3) Financial and non-financial damages incurred as a consequence of the Imposed War [Iran’s name for the 1980s war with Iraq];

“4) Financial and non-financial damages incurred as a consequence of the martyrdom of over 223,000, and the self-sacrifices of another 600,000 (war prisoners and war disabled) [still referring to the Iran-Iraq war];

“5) Financial and non-financial damages incurred as a consequence of the martyrdom of 17,0000 assassinated martyrs [no elaborations provided];

“6) Financial and non-financial damages incurred as a consequence of the attacks on oil rigs [during the Iran-Iraq war];

“7) Financial and non-financial damages incurred as a consequence of anti-Iran espionage conducted, sponsored or supported by the United Sates;

“8) Financial and non-financial damages incurred as a consequence of blocking, seizing or interfering with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s assets and finances – including those of government and public organisations and institutions, as well as Iranian officials;

“9) Financial and non-financial damages incurred as a consequence of the actions undertaken, as well those which will be undertaken in the future, by the usurping Zionist regime – which have been carried out with the support or partial role of the US;”

The differences are not moral or legal high ground, but practical. Iran just doesn’t have possession of US assets that it can sequester. In contrast, the US froze billions in Iranian accounts in the US after the 1979 revolution. (This is Iran’s money and the US has no legal right to it, contrary to what Donald Trump keeps alleging).

It is not in fact clear that Iran was responsible for the 1983 bombing, though allies of Iran were.

But it certainly is the case that the US overthrew the elected government of Iran in 1953 and imposed a brutal dictatorship on the country, so as, in part, to dictate to Iran the terms on which it could export petroleum. And, it certainly did trillions of dollars of harm to Iran as a result.

It is also the case that the Reagan administration sided with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in its war of aggression on Iran, supplying Iraq with weaponry and intel and even precursers for biological and chemical weapons. The chemical weapons were used on Iranian troops at the front. When Iran sought to have Iraq condemned for chemical weapons use at the UN Security Council, the Reagan administration ran interference for Saddam Hussein and prevented a UNSC condemnation of Baghdad.

Just to show that hypocrisy never goes out of style, Iraq’s use of chemical weapons was cited as a casus belli by the George W. Bush administration for its war of aggression in 2003.

So, yes, I think the harm the US did Iran during the Iran-Iraq War could well also be worth trillions. The blocking of a UNSC condemnation of Iraqi chemical weapons use alone would be worth that.

Iran won’t see a dime.

But it is the case that in a world where courts are making claims for universal jurisdiction, the US should be careful about litigating past political and military conflicts. Washington’s list of crimes is so long that sooner or later it will boomerang on the US elites.


Related video:

PressTV: “Iran MPs want US to pay for damage inflicted since 1953”

Posted in Featured,Iran | 18 Responses | Print |

18 Responses

  1. If its OK for the US families to sue the Saudis because of 911, sure, let the ball of law fall where it may, but not with either the TTP, or the TTIP!

  2. Could Iraq not argue the US invaded and destroyed their country based on jingoistic rhetoric and fabricated evidence supplied by what the Bush administration knew were dubious sources, such as Curveball and easily disproved accusations concerning metal tubes and bogus yellow cake documentation. The invasion has led to continued chaos causing loss of life as well as hundreds of thousands Iraqi civilians wounded or displaced. The total tab could reach several trillion dollars when you figure in pain and suffering added to actual damages to homes, businesses and infrastructure.

    While we are fantasizing, we can discuss Bush and Blair being charged with crimes against humanity.

  3. in a world where courts are making claims for universal jurisdiction

    And thus those efforts are not only held back, but worse, laws are effectively made unjust when they selectively apply only to the powerless. From the wikipedia entry on the US relations to the International Criminal Court (ICC):

    As of January 2015, 123 states are members of the court.[2] Other countries that have not signed or ratified the Rome Statute include India, Indonesia, and China.[2] On May 6, 2002, the United States, in a position shared with Israel and Sudan, having previously signed the Rome Statute, formally withdrew its intent of ratification.[2]

    This is strikingly reminiscent of the League of Nations project that was supposed to prevent another World War almost 100 years ago as illustrated in the iconic punch cartoon from 1919 [link to wikipedia commons]. The bridge of nations won’t work without the keystone (i.e. the US participating), and likely neither will the ICC.

  4. The rule seems to be that you should never have any assets in USA for fear of getting them confiscated.

  5. The actions of US courts in taking funds out of frozen Iranian asset will bring the US justice system into disrepute. In all advanced countries the judiciary is supposed to be independent of the executive power and of political machinations. Sadly, the actions of US courts and even of the Supreme Court resemble more the deliberations of Iranian courts or those of other despotic countries.

    If a country’s court is allowed to act as judge, jury and executioner and take funds out of other countries’ assets, nothing will remain of the international rule of law. This is a bad precedent that US courts are setting. What if Iraqi and Vietnamese governments, and indeed dozens of others, decide to sue the US for the harm inflicted upon them as the result of US action.

    Indeed, in the case of Iran, the United States has signed an agreement known as the Algiers Accord, which ended the hostage crisis, that prevent the United States from taking such cases against Iran. Some of the provisions of the Accord were:
    1- The US would not intervene politically or military in Iranian internal affairs;
    2- The US would remove a freeze on Iranian assets and trade sanctions on Iran;
    3- Both countries would end litigation between their respective governments and citizens, referring them to international arbitration…

    It seems the hawks in US Congress and even the judiciary who wish to torpedo the nuclear agreement with Iran are not giving up and are using every excuse, even if it harms US reputation and interests, to ensure the failure of that agreement. This is sad because if Iran and the United States could put past grievances behind and could cooperate to resolve some of the regional crises they could achieve a great deal for the region and for the world.

    • The Algiers Accord was established under duress, while US diplomats were held hostage by the Iranian government in contravention of international law. This is similar to the “apology” issued by the US government to secure the release of the crew of the USS Pueblo by the North Korean government, which was quickly disavowed afterward. Personally, I have no issue with any government, anywhere, ignoring, disavowing or cherry-picking from agreements made to release hostages, particularly those taken in an obvious act in violation of international law. Indeed, I would be outraged if the Algiers Accord was scrupulously adhered to, as if it was an agreement reached in good faith, without resort to hostage taking of diplomats.

  6. Professor, there are Counties all over the globe who might say they have a legitimate claim against the US for compensation. However, if you don’t have any US assets you may as well forget it as no US court would approve compensation directly from US coffers. Perhaps the real mystery is why any of these Countries would invest money or place assets in America in the first place. I would have thought the Swiss banks or similar would be a much safer place. It seems to me in these days of electronic money and uncertainty, that gold and other precious metals would be a better way of protecting ones assets.

  7. The US is a litigatious nation and should not be surprised by Iran’s suit. US law looks for winners and losers and is somewhat like a medieval challenge as opposed to the more staid, and perhaps more boring, Napoleonic pursuit of truth. US law is also expensive and the threat alone can be used to silence potential opponents, a sort of latter day six-shooter. Also, of course, law degrees are popular qualifications for public and political life. All this makes for an elite with highly confrontational attitudes to almost anything, including foreign policy which renders the notion of ‘US diplomacy’ quite Trumpian. Of course the Iranians would not get any monetary recourse from suing the US, but a lot of smelly stuff would hit the fan. The same will be true when the long delayed Chilcot inquiry finally confirms the Blair/Bush secret deal over the invasion of Iraq. That is hand rubbingly worth looking forward to. These days I do sometimes feel we are living in several TV series at the same time.

  8. Iran is more than justified in making these claims, and in thereby exposing the utter corruption of the USG in these past acts, and the utter hypocrisy of the US in claiming damages from this victim, and the utter hypocrisy of the US in both refusing to sign the Treaty of Rome allowing jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and in passing legislation to militarily attack the Hague if the Court convicts US persons of war crimes.

    Iran is right to show the gross hypocrisy of the US government to the subjugated and propagandized people of the US.

  9. “Iran is right to show the gross hypocrisy of the US government to the subjugated and propagandized people of the US.”

    Iranians have suffered, but Iranians are not going to be helped by propaganda.

    • Oh the statement is extremely solidly founded (if you are suggesting that it is propaganda). Numerous references on control of elections and mass media by economic concentrations. You have only to read on the subject.

      If it were not so so, you would have a hard time explaining any major foreign policy initiative of the US since WWII.

  10. What is needed is a US truth commission that exposes the activities of its intelligence agencies in manipulating/controlling the governments of other countries, including staging color revolutions.

    It is sad that the post Watergate Church commission is that last semi credible effort along those lines. That was about 40 years ago. How do you claim to be a democracy when the last significant transparency effort was 40 years ago?

  11. What is scary, and simultaneously salubrious, is that in 30-40 years from now it is likely that we will not be able to dictate global foreign policy. We could have built international institutions (UN, ICC, etc) in a manner that would have been tailored for human rights and our ideals, instead we willingly chose to deliberately weaken these institutions for dubious short term gains. This was a massive loss.

    China does hold substantial US assets and so does the rest of the world. We will have to adjust very quickly to a world where not only we are unable dictate global events, but instead are fined for our actions. In thirty years, there will be markets that are equally or more impressive as ours. If we pull stunts like this in thirty years time, other countries will simply choose to invest in our rivals to avoid our capriciousness.

  12. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” should be a principle of lawmaking with all powerful nations when they start thinking of leveraging their control of the global financial system to punish their enemies. If the US wants to set a precedent here then it could open the floodgates to suits elsewhere by other countries, who only have to pass the requisite legislation. While in theory this would make people less likely to shoot each other, I think in practice it would lead to the fragmenting of the global financial and legal system built up after the Cold War, not a good thing, for all its inequities.

  13. One small correction. From what I have read, the 1953 coup was a joint effort with British intelligence, so they should include the UK in their law, too. British Petroleum was a major player in Iran and Great Britain had more of an interest in Iran than the US from WWII until they decided to withdraw from east of Suez in 1968. I believe it was Nixon who really got us closely involved with the Shah..

  14. The US Senate has OK’d a bill to allow the Saudis to be sued for 9/11. The Saudis have threatened to pull their billions from the US. Now, if Iran and Saudi Arabia could reach some form of understanding. . .

  15. There was a successful lawsuit claiming $billions from Iraq because of its supposed responsibility for 9/11. It seems that was somehow quietly cancelled after Bush installed the US backed regime.

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