Despite improved US-Iran relations, the US Supreme Court on Wednesday gave a historic $2 billion victory to the families of Americans killed in attacks blamed on Iran.
At its January hearing on the issue, the US Supreme Court seemed to be seriously entertaining allowing around $2 billion in frozen of Iranian Bank Markazi's funds to go to the families, but the 6-2 vote in favor made that possibility, which risks major tensions in bilateral relations between the two governments who had just concluded a deal on Iran's nuclear program, a reality.
The court's decision was a rejection of an appeal brought by Bank Markazi, Iran's central bank, contesting a 2014 lower-court ruling that stated the money should be handed over to plaintiffs representing hundreds of Americans killed or injured in the 1983 bombing of a US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, the 1996 Khobar Towers truck bombing in Saudi Arabia, suicide bombings in Israel and other attacks.
The money would go toward satisfying a $2.65 billion judgment against Iran that the families won in US federal court in 2007 in a case filed in 2001. The money is held in New York in a trust account at Citibank, part of Citigroup Inc, but was not fully discovered until 2008-2010.
At issue before the justices was whether Congress violated the separation of powers principle enshrined in the US Constitution by passing the law that specified the funds held in the trust account go toward paying off the judgment.