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US Seizure of Iran Assets "Highway Robbery"
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US Seizure of Iran Assets "Highway Robbery"

The foreign minister denounced as "highway robbery" and vowed to fight the US Supreme Court ruling that $2 billion in Iran's blocked assets must be used to compensate the families of US soldiers killed in attacks allegedly linked to Iran.

Tehran was given access to its frozen funds in US banks after international sanctions were lifted in January under the July 2015 nuclear deal, in return for temporary curbs on its nuclear program.

The Central Bank of Iran had complained that US Congress was intruding into the business of federal courts when it passed a law in 2012 stating that the frozen money should go toward satisfying a $2.65 billion judgment against Iran won by the families in a US federal court in 2007.

The Supreme Court found that the Congress had not usurped the authority of the courts.

The ruling would affect, among others, the families of 241 US soldiers killed in truck bomb attacks on a US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in October 1983.

"It is a theft. Huge theft. It is highway robbery. And believe me you, we will get it back," Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with the New Yorker published on Monday.

"People can legislate in other countries to confiscate American assets. Would you be happy with that? The United States has committed a lot of crimes against Iranians, against the people of Vietnam, the people of Afghanistan, the people of Iraq," Zarif said.

"Can they legislate in their own countries that for every collateral damage suffered because of American bombing … Would you be willing to accept it?"

"So why should we accept the Supreme Court ruling? The Supreme Court is the Supreme Court of the United States, not the Supreme Court of the world. We're not under its jurisdiction, nor is our money," he said.

  US Backseat Approach a Problem

In response to a question about complications related to the implementation of the nuclear deal, the top diplomat said, "The most important problem is that the United States is taking a backseat after eight years of scaring everybody off, imposing heavy penalties on people who wanted to do business with Iran. Billions of dollars of penalties were imposed on various European financial institutions.

"The United States was supposed to go to various banks and tell them bygones are bygones."

A US ban on access to its financial system and the US dollar in the transactions involving Iranian businesses has deterred international firms from entering Iran's market.

This has sparked protest from Tehran, arguing that the ban is preventing the delivery of promised benefits from the accord.

"I want to see European banks doing business with Iran without fear of US retaliation. A lot depends on it. As we implemented our obligations fully, we are entitled to benefit fully. The United States needs to do way more. They have to send a message that doing business with Iran will not cost them. Period. No ifs and buts," Zarif said.

"International regimes, international treaties, international norms are observed not because of the goodness of anybody but because they bring benefits. If they don't, then the longevity of those agreements comes into jeopardy."

Asked whether the deal is in danger of collapse, he said, "No, the deal is in place. But if one side does not comply with the agreement, then the agreement will start to falter."

  US Policy Shift Needed for Détente   

Zarif said a detente in Tehran-Washington relations is contingent on a considerable shift in US policy toward Iran.

"As the Leader [of the Islamic Revolution] said last year, if the experience of the nuclear negotiations proves that the United States is changing its approach toward Iran—is basing its approach to Iran on mutual respect and interests—then there is a chance of change."

On the attempts by US lawmakers to impose new sanctions on Iran over its missile tests earlier this year, Zarif said, "The missile tests are our right. We have made it very clear that these will not be used other than in self-defense. They're not designed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

"What do you expect, Iran to lie dead? You've covered the Iran–Iraq war, you remember missiles pouring on Iranian cities with chemical weapons. You remember that we didn't have any to defend ourselves … Here I think you owe us. US planes were giving [former Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein intelligence to hit our civilians with chemical weapons. We don't owe anybody anything on defense."

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