The US has confiscated $2billion of Iranian assets to compensate the victims or their families of terrorist attacks purportedly linked to Iran in the 1983 Marine Barracks attack in Beirut that killed 254 US servicemen, and the 1996 bombing of the Khobor Towers in Saudi Arabia.
Beirut: What happened? The barracks was unprotected given that the US servicemen were not their as military contingents, but as peacekeeping agents leaving a wide open gate and no sentries. A truck laden with 21,000lbs of TNT flattened the entire barracks and everyone inside. A formal report issued by the US indicated serious errors in judgment by officers on the ground with a military chain of command taking the heat. Reference was made to ‘jihadists’ and ‘militants’.
The problem? The group that claimed responsibility, Islamic Jihad, did not necessarily exist. While there is speculation that they were a front for Hezbollah, there is no definitive proof one way or the other. Robert Baer, former CIA, has some lucid analysis on the situation, but describes it as a mutual war of terrorism, almost a tit-for-tat, at the time between Iran and the US with Lebanon in the middle.
Khobor Towers: What happened? Nineteen people died when a truck loaded with a bomb blew up the dormitory in the Towers which housed US Air Force pilots and staff. It was ten years later that a US court and the Saudi’s decided that Iran was responsible and another nine years before the Saudi’s arrested the man they found was the mastermind, a Saudi Shiite, Mughassil, was arrested in 2015. Mughassil was a military commander of the Saudi branch of Hezbollah.
The problem? Timing. Timing is everything and the Sauds desperately hate the Iranians.
But a larger problem emerges, reparation for victims of terrorism.
The same logic that is currently being used to stifle and quash the release of documents that purportedly show the Saudi involvement in the 911 attacks – is being used against Iran. And the logic that opening that can of worms could create exponential financial repercussions on the US in various failed and successful coups that resulted in civilian “casualties” and could be classified as terrorism by courts in other countries.
It also sets up the potential for the International Criminal Court to be prescribed future cases involving terrorism and what constitutes terrorism. Current cases being judged by the ICC include war crimes in Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, Cote D’Ivoire, and Georgia. All cases are investigating representative governments for crimes against humanity including attacks against ‘peacekeepers’.
So how is it that the US may make an international declaration against Iran without going through the ICC?
While the ICC, based in Hague The Netherlands, pats itself on the back for its astounding work, it’s true function would seem similar to NATO or the UN. Their budget is huge, their actual productivity sparse at best. As of 2014, 12 years of operation and $1billion later, the ICC had issued exactly two convictions, both against Congolese warlords. Not exactly a legal system that makes people tremble with fear.
And then there was the award the ICC admitted to Exxon Mobile and its subsidiaries against Venezuela after Exxon-Mobil restructured its Venezuelan business under the Netherlands–Venezuela bilateral investment treaty – OUCH! No conflict of interest there.
So, did Iran commit these crimes? I don’t know, and maybe that isn’t really the bigger issue. The bigger issue is implicating governments of countries that think they are immune. Ukraine has filed a claim under for the Maiden protests which caused civilian massacres. There is a preliminary case against the UK for crimes against Iraqi civilians. What about the US involvement in Ukraine? The US involvement in Cuba? The US involvement in Brazil? The list is long – and the reparations could bankrupt us…
How these will play out is up for grabs, but given the ICC history, we’ll have to wait ten to twenty years before we find out.
How much money is at stake for Iran? The figures are not available but estimates range from $10 to $100 billion that the US is attempting to appropriate. I wonder if that includes interest…