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August 16, 2015
The giveaways in President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal keep piling up. By handing $100 billion or more in frozen funds to Tehran, the deal would not only fill the coffers of Iranian terror proxies. It would also abandon American victims of terrorism waiting to collect tens of billions of dollars in compensation owed to them by Iran.
Over two decades U.S. federal courts have found the Iranian government liable for orchestrating or supporting the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers U.S. Air Force facility in Saudi Arabia, and multiple shootings and suicide bombings in Israel, among other attacks. Judges have awarded some $45 billion in damages to hundreds of plaintiffs such as Embassy bombing survivor Anne Dammarell and the widow and orphaned children of Hamas bombing victim Ira Weinstein.
Iran has refused to pay a cent, while continuing to back Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups. Yet U.S. law provides for the victims to get compensation. Under the 2002 Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, U.S. court judgments against state sponsors of terror can be satisfied by tapping the seized or frozen assets of those states.
An estimated $100 billion to $150 billion in Iranian oil money has been held in escrow accounts under U.S. sanctions laws since 2012. That’s enough to satisfy the many court rulings in favor of Iranian terror victims, but Mr. Obama’s deal would transfer it to Tehran as “sanctions relief” merely for signing on the dotted line. As even Mr. Obama admits, some of that money would inevitably end up funding more Iranian-backed terror directed by figures such as Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, who also gets sanctions relief under the agreement.
A U.S. official told the Journal this month that the U.S. never raised the issue of terrorism victims with Iran. In negotiating Libya’s nuclear disarmament a decade ago, by contrast, the U.S. secured an agreement for the Gadhafi regime to compensate victims of attacks such as the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The 1981 Algiers Accord resolving the Iranian hostage crisis included a claims tribunal that ordered $2.5 billion in payments from Tehran.
In federal court in New York City two dozen victims of Iranian terror have sued to block Mr. Obama’s deal for disregarding U.S. laws meant to enforce just compensation. “It would be outrageous to release the $100 billion in frozen Iranian funds when these American families have unpaid court judgments against the terror-sponsoring regime in Tehran,” said lawyer Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. As Iran can’t be expected to pay, she said, “it is really in the hands of the U.S. administration, which encouraged the U.S. victims to file these cases.”
By ignoring the $45 billion owed to Iran’s terror victims, the U.S. government mocks its own judiciary and erodes a deterrent to state-sponsored terrorism. This is one more reason for Congress to reject a deal that blesses Iran as a nuclear-threshold state.