Iran MPs want US to pay damages for ‘hostile action’
President Hassan Rowhani said Tehran was preparing international legal action to recover the nearly $2 billion in frozen assets
Iran’s parliament, also known as the majlis, voted through a law on Tuesday obliging the government to demand damages from the United States for 63 years of “hostile action and crimes.”
The bill lists Iranian complaints such as the supposed US support for a 1953 military coup in Iran, the devastating Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s and seizure of Iranian funds abroad during the period of crippling international sanctions which were only lifted earlier this year.
“The government has the duty to take the necessary measures seeking compensation for material and moral damages caused by the United States” to the country and Iranians over the past six decades the text reads.
Parliament did not specify a sum, although Vice President Majid Ansari said during the debate that “Iranian courts have already ruled that the US pay $50 billion in damages for its hostile actions” towards the country.
The law was passed by the conservative-dominated outgoing parliament in response to a US Supreme Court decision last month.
State of principle
While many hardliners and conservative lawmakers lost in last month’s election to moderates and reformists, the new law points to deeper grievances felt by Iran’s more liberal wing, said a commentator. The new parliament will be sworn in on May 28.
On May 16, a special working group formed at the order of President Hassan Rowhani – himself a moderate - to investigate Iranian property confiscated by the US government issued a statement saying that American judicial system had “violated the principle of state immunity.”
Alex Vatanka, an Iranian-American commentator and analyst at the Washington-based Middle East Institute think-tank, said that “this particular action by this parliament, whose life comes to an end within two weeks or so, has plenty of support in the Rowhani administration.”
Rowhani and his foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, who played a key role in negotiating last year’s nuclear deal with six world powers including the US, also have to display “showmanship” after a continuous “barrage of criticism of hardliners” accusing the government of being soft.
“Domestically, [Rowhani and his moderate wing are] not in position to be seen to be soft,” Vatanka added.
Despite coming to an agreement over the nuclear deal, which saw the Islamic Republic curb its nuclear ambitions in return for the lifting of strict economic sanctions, tensions between the US and Iran show no sign of letting up.
In January, less than six months after the nuclear deal was inked, Iranian naval forces seized two US navy boats off Iran’s coastal water in the Arabian Gulf. The sailors were later released.
Then in March, Washington slapped sanctions on several Iranian firms after the Islamic Republic performed a ballistic missile test. Earlier this month, an Iranian general on Wednesday warned that Iran would close the strategic Strait of Hormuz if the United States and its allies threaten Tehran..
But despite the continued hostilities, Iranian sentiments towards the US have still softened considerably, said Vatanka, who has studied Iranian media rhetoric for the last two decades.
“Even the rhetoric from the hardline circle isn’t as categorical as before,” he said. “The sort of open-ended conflict with the United States… is now being questioned even by the most hawkish voices in the system. And that is the untold story.”