Iran Asks UN Chief to Intervene on US Asset Seizure

FM Warns US Disregard for Sovereign Immunity Has 'Catastrophic Implications'

Tensions over the US Supreme Court ruling allowing the seizure of nearly $2 billion in Iranian central bank assets to pay for the 1983 Beirut bombing continue to rise, with Iran’s Foreign Ministry asking UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to intervene in the process.

The concept of sovereign immunity does not generally allow foreign states to be held accountable for their actions, and under US law there are very narrow exceptions. Indeed, US law explicitly forbids taking central bank money on top of this, though in the case of Iran multiple moves by presidents and a 2012 act of Congress allowed for this exception. Iran denies any involvement in the 1983 bombing at any rate.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif urged Ban to do something about the US moves, citing the “catastrophic implications” of the seizure of the frozen assets. Zarif has also been meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry regularly in recent days, though this seems to center more around the US blocking implementation of the sanctions relief under the nuclear deal than the asset seizure, as the former is potentially a matter of tens, if nor hundreds of billions of dollars.

Coincidentally, the question of sovereign immunity under US law is also a major one in a Congressional bill aiming to expose any nation found to be funding terrorism. This bill is aimed primarily at Saudi Arabia, and led the Saudi government to threaten to collapse the US economy through the sale of treasury assets.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of