Last week’s US Supreme Court ruling, freeing up nearly $2 billion in Iranian central bank funds to pay compensation for the 1983 Beirut bombing was not just a major ruling in the US, but is getting a major negative reaction in Iran, where officials continue to deny involvement in the bombing in the first place.
Reformist President Hassan Rouhani, who has long been keen to improve relations with the West, panned the ruling as “flagrant theft,” insisting the US was “pillaging” Iranian assets. Indeed, US law generally forbids targeting central banks, and it took multiple presidential actions and an explicit act of Congress to make this special exemption to seize the Iranian money.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also blasted the US for the ruling, saying the American government “practices deceit.” He then likened this to the “on paper” easing of sanctions, while Iran continues to struggle to access funds that were nominally unfrozen months ago.
Khamenei’s comments in that regard have been backed by European officials, who complain the US is cutting the legs out from under the sanction relief that was supposed to come in the nuclear deal. Indeed, Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that of the at least $55 billion in frozen Iranian assets abroad, Iran had so far been able to access only about $3 billion.
Iran’s Foreign Minister warned that they hold the US government responsible for the central bank’s assets related to the case, and that Iran is prepared to lodge a formal complaint with the International Court of Justice to seek redress for the “plundering” of Iranian funds.