United States Capitol building in Washington, DC..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli NGO Shurat Hadin was a key inspiration for US Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pennsylvania) presenting a bill that passed the House of Representatives 251-173 and would bar President Barack Obama from waiving any sanctions on Iran under the new deal until around $40 billion has been paid to Americans victims of Tehran-backed terrorism, a staffer for the congressman has indicated.
The White House has already vowed to veto the legislation, which passed late on Thursday, two weeks after efforts to kill the Iran nuclear deal failed in the Congress.
However, lawmakers are still developing legislation seeking to influence, or undermine, the international agreement.
The measure passed the Republican-led House largely along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Obama’s fellow Democrats opposed.
On August 5, a group of American victims of Iranian terrorism holding around $1.5b. in US court judgments against it filed a motion to enjoin the Obama administration from releasing an estimated $100b. in frozen Iranian assets.
The motion injected itself into an already heated congressional review of the Obama administration’s agreement with Iran, and Republicans supportive of Thursday’s measure credited Shurat Hadin’s motion as an inspiration.
Among other things, the Iran nuclear deal, which Congress cannot really stop anymore, eventually requires lifting US and world economic sanctions and unfreezing the $100b. of Iran’s assets in return for Tehran reducing the footprint of its nuclear weapons program.
The Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center motion said that under the deal, the US has pledged to unfreeze the funds belonging to the Central Bank of Iran held primarily in overseas accounts, and to delist from sanctions lists the (according to the NGO) Iran Revolutionary Guard-connected Melli, Mellat and Sepah banks.
The NGO stated, “The families claim that releasing the funds will preclude them from ever collecting on their judgments and deprive them of the only leverage they have to make Iran pay.”
The judgments stem from deadly attacks committed from 1995 through 2006 by Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, Iran’s terrorist proxies, including suicide bombings and drive-by shootings, in which the plaintiffs were harmed, Shurat Hadin said.
While Shurat Hadin’s motion related to around $1.5b. in assets, the congressional measure covers around $40b. because it relates to all Iranian infractions against all Americans, including against US government property, dating back to 1979.
Highlighting the importance that the frozen assets could have for Shurat Hadin, it noted in the motion that until now and absent leverage such as the only recently (relative to the decade-long collection attempts) frozen large assets, it has had very limited success collecting on judgments against Iran.
The NGO has successfully seized two houses over the years, but that is a drop in the bucket compared to the $152 million in compensatory damages and the around $1.5b. in total overall damages awarded by US courts.
“It would be outrageous to release the $100b. in frozen Iranian funds when these American families have unpaid court judgments against the terror sponsoring regime in Tehran,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said.
“If you release these funds you erase all hope for the families of ever getting a measure of justice against this outlaw regime,” she said.