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Why did US seize Iran's $2 Billion?

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Obama endorses legal theft (by Eric Walberg)
Obama endorses legal theft (by Eric Walberg)
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What looked to be a new window of detente between the US and Iran, following the signing of the Joint Comprehensive plan of Action on Iran's nuclear program has quickly turned opaque. A US decree was issued to seize $2 billion in assets belonging to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), holding Iran financially responsible for the 1983 bombing that killed 241 Marines at their barracks in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. The funds in question have been blocked since the civilian trial in the bombing began in 2011, but awaited the final legal touch to bless the blatant theft. This came when the US Supreme Court recently upheld the Congress bill, with the approval of President Barack Obama.

This is truly alarming. It clearly is part of a tactic of goading Iran, pushing it in an attempt to bring Iran to heel. Either that or to undermine the deal. Perhaps Obama has had second thoughts about the deal.

Timeline long and tortuous:

* In 2002, Judge Royce Lamberth entered default against the defendant (Iran) in a civil suit lodged by victims. In 2003, he ruled that Iran was legally responsible for providing Hezbollah with financial and logistical support that helped the suicide bombers carry out the attack, and thus was guilty. Lamberth concluded that the court had personal jurisdiction over the defendants under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, that Hezbollah was formed under the auspices of the Iranian government and was completely reliant on Iran in 1983, and that Hezbollah carried out the attack in conjunction with Iran's Ministry of Information and Security agents. Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria have continued to deny any involvement in any of the bombings. An obscure group calling itself "Islamic Jihad" claimed responsibility, and that the bombings were aimed to get the multinational forces out of Lebanon.


* In 2007, Lamberth awarded $2.65 billion to the plaintiffs, an amount he wrote at the time "may be the largest ever entered by a court of the United States against a foreign nation." The judgment was divided up among the victims; the largest award was $12 million to Larry Gerlach, who became a quadriplegic as a result of a broken neck he suffered in the attack.

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* In 2008, the $2 billion was secretly ordered frozen.


* In 2010, victims of the Beirut attack sued the Luxembourg-based clearing house and bank Clearstream for allegedly assisting Iran to move $250 million in frozen assets out of the United States, prompting the open seizure of all Iranian assets at Citibank.


* In 2012, Lambeth ordered Iran to pay an additional $813m in damages and interest. US Congress buttressed this decision with a special law that specifically directed the American bank to turn over its Iranian assets to victims' families.

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* In 2014, Bank Markazi challenged the ruling.

* Now, in 2016 Judge Lamberth got the final word: the US Supreme Court ruled that Congress did not usurp the authority of American courts by passing the 2012 law concerning the 2007 ruling.

The situation is clear: the US 'justice' system is not objective. The results of the long process show it serves US political interests over any concern for justice.

Who 'dunnit' Beirut 1983?

The case revolves around Iran's supposed guilt by association with Hezbollah, and Hezbollah's supposed perpetration of the 1983 bombing. Since the bombing was never solved, there is no case here. It is the US that is guilty in falling short in its security precautions.

Shortly after the 1983 bombing, President Ronald Reagan appointed a military fact-finding committee. The commission's report found senior US military officials responsible for security lapses and blamed the military chain of command for the disaster. It suggested that there might have been many fewer deaths if the barracks guards had carried loaded weapons and a barrier more substantial than the barbed wire the bomber drove over easily. The commission also noted that the "prevalent view" among U.S. commanders was that there was a direct link between the navy shelling of the Muslims at Suq-al-Garb and the truck bomb attack.

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When you are so universally loathed and occupying another country, you should be very, very careful. Israel knows that well. Former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky, in his 1990 book By Way of Deception, has accused the Mossad of knowing the specific time and location of the 1983 bombing, but only gave general information to the Americans of the attack, information which was worthless. According to Ostrovsky, then Mossad head Nahum Admoni decided against giving the specific details to the Americans on the grounds that the Mossad's responsibility was to protect Israel's interests, not Americans. Ostrovsky further claimed that among the high level officers of the Mossad there was a view that if the Americans "wanted to stick their nose into this Lebanon thing, let them pay the price."

The perpetrators of the bombing are still unknown, but the US insists it must be Hezbollah and thus, indirectly, Iran. Both have denied responsibility. Seizing the funds, given the inconclusive evidence and the security lapses of the occupiers, can only be described as theft. President Rouhani referred to the US Supreme Court ruling on seizure of Iran's blocked assets as "a blatant robbery and a major legal scandal for the US", saying the move is indicative of Washington's continued hostilities toward the Iranian nation. "They (the Americans) should be aware that the rights of the Iranian people cannot be violated and plundered," he said, adding, "No thief can take pride in his theft and think what he has stolen belongs to him."

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Eric writes for Al-Ahram Weekly and PressTV. He specializes in Russian and Eurasian affairs. His "Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games" and "From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization" are available at (more...)
 

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