American Tax Dollars for the Mullahs
Ali Khamenei congratulated Iran’s diplomats on Tuesday for making the “front of arrogance and bullying”—that would be the U.S.—retreat. Iran’s Supreme Leader has good reason to be happy. Having preserved the core of his nuclear capabilities, his regime is now on the receiving end of a financial windfall.
Take the financial component of the nuclear accord that took formal effect on Saturday. In addition to lifting most sanctions and releasing more than $100 billion in frozen Iranian assets, the Obama Administration over the weekend agreed to pay the mullahs a separate $1.7 billion to settle an Iranian claim dating to the 1970s.
That amount includes a $400 million trust fund used by the Shah to purchase American arms before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, plus $1.3 billion in interest. You can argue whether the trust fund properly belongs to the regime that overthrew the Shah, but at least that $400 million was originally Iranian money.
The $1.3 billion interest payment will come from U.S. taxpayers, which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry claims “was fixed at a reasonable rate of interest.” Maybe so, but it happens that $1.7 billion is also the amount at issue in a case brought by American victims of Iranian terrorism against the Central Bank of Iran. The plaintiffs include victims and survivors of the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, among other Iranian-directed atrocities.
The victims argue that a statute passed by Congress in 2012 entitles them to use $1.7 billion held by the Iranians in a New York account to satisfy judgments they’ve won against Tehran in U.S. courts. All told, such victims hold $45 billion in civil judgments awarded by American courts over two decades, but they have no way to collect except to attach Iranian assets in U.S. banks.
The Iranian regime has challenged the constitutionality of the pertinent portion of the 2012 law. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case last week and is expected to rule by June. The Obama Administration argued in favor of the victims. Yet President Obama and Mr. Kerry didn’t press for fair settlements for these victims as part of the nuclear deal and now seem to be pre-emptively
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