US punishing Iran for Palestinian resistance?



US punishes Iran for Palestinian resistance
By Ardeshir Ommani 

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. 

On a Sunday morning in Beirut, October 23, 1983, a yellow Mercedes Benz truck loaded with 12,000 pounds (5,443 kilograms) of dynamite slammed against the four-story building that housed the US Battalion Landing Team Marine Headquarters. The explosion, which was heard throughout Beirut, killed 241 American servicemen. Minutes later a second truck, full of explosives, slammed against the barracks of French paratroopers nearby; the blast killed 58 French soldiers. The organization Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing. 

The question then arises: what had led to this attack, and why, thousands of miles away from their homelands, the American and French troops were in Beirut in 1983 – in the midst of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war (1975-1990)? 

The answer is directly related to the fact that on June 6, 1982, Israel, led by General Ariel Sharon, invaded Lebanon. The goal of the invasion was to wipe out the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had been pushed out of its homeland and forced to seek refuge in Lebanon. Israel’s attack was so brutal that it left its toxic trace on the Lebanese society for a long time. In 18 weeks, according to the Red Cross, as many as 17,000 people, mostly Lebanese civilians, were killed by Israeli aerial bombardment. Wherever the PLO was uprooted, a new organization that called itself the Party of God (Hezbollah) took root. Some 6,000 PLO fighters were forced out of Lebanon, mostly into Tunisia. During their presence in Lebanon, troops from the US, France, Italy and Israel backed the Christian Phalange and suppressed the Muslim majority. While in Lebanon, the so-called international peacekeeping force did not demand the total exit of Israeli soldiers from Lebanon. 

As a result on September 15, just five days after the multinational force had departed, Israeli troops directed the Christian militia to attack civilians in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Israeli forces launched flares into the night sky to enable the killings. To the Lebanese Muslims it was not a secret that the US and France were behind the aggression and atrocities of the Zionist state. Masquerading as peacekeeping forces, the US Marines and the French paratroopers landed in Beirut again on September 24. Soon the United States administration of Ronald Reagan once again took the side of the Christian Phalangists and pressed against Druze and Shi’ite Muslims in central and southern Lebanon. The American and French so-called peacekeeping troops frequently used their firepower to shell Druze and Shi’ite positions in the mountains surrounding Beirut. 

Spotting the enemy at home, on April 18, 1983, four months before the major attacks, a suicide bomber drove his car into the American Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people, including 16 Americans. The attacker was able to wipe out most of the CIA’s Middle East agents, who were meeting that day at the US Embassy. All these signs did not teach the US administration any useful lesson. On the contrary, US policy moved closer to the Phalangist and escalated its attacks on Druze and the poverty-stricken Shi’ite Muslims. Finally, the end result was that on October 23, 1983, the suicide bombers attacked the American and French barracks. 

As was shown above, “the most brilliant act of terrorism” [1] on the American and French military headquarters in Beirut in 1983 was a caustic criticism of the masses of wandering and poverty-stricken Palestinians and Shi’ite Muslims who were made homeless and destitute by the unilateral and voracious policies of the US administrations and overwhelming military forces of the Pentagon and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in favor of primarily Israel and a small minority of pro-imperialist Lebanese landlords, financiers and foreign tradesmen. 

That’s where the money is
The tragedy in Beirut was the result of two obvious reasons: that the US overt support for the Israeli policy of territorial expansion and occupation of the Palestinian homeland made the US credibility and its military forces targets of the contending forces, and the Islamic Jihad organization had already professed its responsibility for the bombings. Therefore, what made the US legal system, the courts, the intelligence services and the New York Police Department to freeze and seize huge private, non-profit and governmental assets in the US and countries in the European continent? (See The great US heist on Iranian assets
, Asia Times Online, May 1, 2012). The answer is, as the correctional officers say: “follow the money”. 

It goes without saying that the Islamic Jihad or the Hezbollah of Lebanon neither had substantial amounts of money parked in the US and European banks, nor could they be easily arrested and hauled to court. Therefore, the US legal system acted the way William “Willie” Sutton (June 30, 1901-November 2, 1980) did in the first half of his active life in the 20th century. The law officers curiously asked Willie why he robbed banks; his answer was “because that’s where the money is.” 

Trusting the Imperialist banks?
If the Palestinian Hamas, the PLO, the Islamic Jihad and the Hezbollah (Party of God) of Lebanon don’t have large amounts of cash or assets that could be frozen or expropriated, Iran – still trusting in the credibility of the world financial system – has kept large amounts of financial assets that could be easily shaken down. Iran is therefore vulnerable to the malfeasance of the US court system, which is weighted toward the wealthy and profiteers. Not surprising then is the report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) from December 12, 2009, that more than US$2 billion allegedly held on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Citigroup accounts were secretly ordered frozen in 2008 by a federal court in New York City. This illegal appropriation of a sovereign country’s assets appears to be the largest seizure of Iranian assets overseas since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. [2] 

The illegality of the act of confiscation of a sizeable fund belonging to a sovereign state, which enjoys immunity in the sphere of international relations, speaks loudly when we learn that 18 months after the execution of the order issued by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, the file remained under seal and was not made public. In 2007, a US federal judge ruled that Iran should pay $2.65 billion to families of victims of the 1983 attack. The question is why it took the US court system 24 years (1983-2007) to come up with an indictment that Iranian authorities were involved in directing the terrorist attacks on the US and French troop barracks? 

The Netherlands is still trying to convince the US authorities to return the remaining assets, which includes bank deposits, gold and real estate property. The sum of the $2 billion Iranian fund frozen in a US bank is nowadays claimed by three parties simultaneously: the Islamic Republic of Iran as the owner of the fund; a group of lawyers who are seeking to gain access to $2.65 billion (a sum greater than the frozen $2 billion fund) for personal enrichment and distribution between more than 1,000 claimants who say they are relatives of the dead or injured US troops; and thirdly, the US government, which prefers to keep the large sum of money frozen for the unforeseen future, knowing the unlawful nature of its act. By signing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law on December 31, 2011, President Barack Obama required the US hold the Iranian money in the frozen state and prohibits any proprietary access to it. 

In addition to the actual sums frozen or expropriated by the US authorities, there are “hundreds of billions of dollars in default judgments against Iran, levied by US Courts in favor of Americans” [3] and Israel. 

Ford-era immunity
The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), signed into law by President Gerald Ford on October 21, 1976, established limitations on whether a foreign sovereign nation (or its political subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities) could be sued in US courts. 

If a foreign defendant qualifies as a “Foreign State,” the act provides that it shall be immune to action in any US court – federal or state. If a defendant establishes that it is a “foreign state” under the FSIA, then it is entitled to sovereign immunity. For Iran to prove that it is a foreign state, it suffices to show that it is a full-fledged member of the United Nations and all its attachments. Accordingly, for the lawsuit to be taken seriously by US courts, the plaintiff must prove that one of the act’s exceptions to immunity apply. That came from a US court ruling which concluded that “with massive material and technical support from the Iranian government,” Hezbollah was able to carry out the 1983 attack. From there onward, and despite the absence of any representation in court for Iran, the court laid down the grounds for denying Iran the right to declare its foreign sovereign immunity from suits initiated by US citizens. 

Put simply, the case the United States courts and lawmakers in congress have laid against Iran in the years since the Beirut attack is based on the allegation that it provided material support to Hezbollah in connection with the bombing, and had been designated a state sponsor of terrorism on January 14, 1984, again in connection with that attack. The US decided that Iran provided Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad with materials that were ultimately used in their attacks against the US barracks in Beirut that resulted in the injury and deaths of US soldiers. On that basis, George Shultz, the US Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, marked Iran as a “state sponsor of terrorism”. 

Such a label that could equally be applied to the United States government, since it is common knowledge that the US is the biggest proliferator of weapons, including missiles, warships, warplanes, chemical weapons and nuclear armaments. Without a doubt, these weapons are used to wage wars in which people are killed for the purpose of occupation, which fits the case of Israel against the Palestinians or the people of Syria or Iran. 

Within the peace and anti-imperialist camp, there are organizations believing that the struggle against the Islamic Republic of Iran for its type of government and policies on gender and dress code carry as much weight and significance as their struggle against US intervention, sanctions, terrorist activities, assassinations of Iranian scientists, and war threats. This political analysis tries abstractly to equate two unequals by prescribing the same kind of treatment to problems that are entirely different by nature. The people of Iran are suffering from high prices, unemployment and lack of vital industrial commodities because of the US embargo and sanctions, not because women are wearing head scarves. In the words of Aristotle, “There is nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequals.” 

Notes: 1. Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation – The Abduction of Lebanon, Nation Books, 1990.
2. US Freezes $2 billion in Iran Case, Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2009.
3. US Sanctions Hamper Iran bid to recover $1.75 billion, Reuters, January 15, 2012. 

Ardeshir Ommani, president of the American Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC), is a writer and political analyst with a background in political economy. AIFC’s website The author may be contacted at: 

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online’s regular contributors. 

(Copyright 2012 Ardeshir Ommani.)

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