13 Feb 2019 | MEE and wires | Middle East Eye
“The International Court of Justice has ruled that Iran can move forward in its effort to unfreeze assets in the United States, rejecting Washington’s claims that the case must be halted because of Tehran’s alleged support for terrorism.
In a decision delivered on Wednesday in The Hague, the ICJ said it had the right to hold full hearings at a later date about whether Iran would get its money back.
Iran is looking to recover $1.75bn in assets frozen by Washington.
In the ruling, the ICJ’s chief judge, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said the United Nations’ top court “unanimously rejects the preliminary objections to admissibility raised by the United States of America”.
Yusuf also said the court deemed it has jurisdiction in the case.
The US had challenged the proceedings, claiming that Tehran based its claims on an outdated Amity Treaty.
Signed between Iran and the US in 1955, the deal outlined economic and consular rights between the two countries, among other things.
In October, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington intended to end its commitment to that treaty, accusing the Iranian government of “abusing the ICJ for political and propaganda purposes“.
The issue at the heart of the ICJ case, filed in June 2016, centres on assets from the Iranian national bank, Bank Markazi.
US courts seized the funds to compensate families of victims of a 1983 bombing of a US Marine Corps base in Beirut.
The US blames that attack on Iran, which for its part has denied involvement in the incident that killed 307 people, including 241 US military personnel.
The ICJ’s ruling comes amid heightened tension between Tehran and Washington, which is co-hosting a Middle East summit in Poland this week that Iran was not invited to.
Donald Trump’s administration originally touted the two-day conference in Warsaw as a way to build a coalition against Iran’s influence in the region.
It has since walked back its intention, attempting to paint the event as a general meeting on Middle East-related issues.
The US has faced an uphill battle in its efforts to get European allies on board with its tough anti-Iran stance since Trump withdrew from a multilateral nuclear treaty signed with Iran in 2015.
The US president also reimposed economic sanctions on Tehran last fall, prompting some European countries to develop a mechanism to try to circumvent those rules.
Nonetheless, maintaining a hardline position on Iran has and continues to be a major component of Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East.