A tough legal battle between Iran and the US

Friday, 2018-10-05 12:34:20
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The International Court of Justice headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. (Reuters)
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NDO – The legal battle between Iran and the United States is escalating tensions between the two sides. Iran is seizing the advantage as the decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, has partly met Tehran’s demands toward the US. The US has announced its termination of the 1995 “Treaty of Amity” signed with Iran, while Tehran does not rule out the possibility of withdrawing from the historic nuclear deal it signed with world powers.

In the context that US sanctions imposed on Iran have come to force, Iran’s lawsuit against the US for breaching its commitments in the nuclear agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is causing Iran-US relations to deteriorate quickly. The ICJ’s ruling, which required the US to ensure that its sanctions do not affect goods in service of Iran’s people or civil aviation safety, has been applauded by Tehran.

Meanwhile, the US criticised the ICJ’s ruling and said the court “had no jurisdiction” in the issue. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of using the ICJ for political purposes. As a judicial agency established by the United Nations (UN) in 1946 to settle disputes between states and the highest court of the UN, ICJ’s decisions are only binding but not enforceable. Thus, in this case, for the US, which once ignored the ICJ’s rulings, the court’s decision seems to only have political meaning as it gives certain support for Iran in front of US sanctions.

In fact, the pressure from US sanctions has a significant impact on the lives of Iranian people, especially when the second round of sanctions, aimed at the field of oil exports – Iran’s major source of revenues – will take effect on November 4.

Iran has called for a multilateral approach to the Iranian nuclear issue to replace the “go big or go home” solution at present. Despite facing multiple challenges ahead, Iran still affirms its tough policy of conducting no negotiations with Washington over the existing issues while conditions are not yet ripe, with allusions to the lack of trust building between the two parties.

Members of the International Court of Justice conduct a hearing on alleged violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity between Iran and the United States, August 27, 2018. (Reuters)

The US withdrawal from the JCPOA and the reimposition of sanctions against Iran has damaged the relationship between Washington and its European allies. Many European companies have been forced to leave shortly after they returned to this potential market for fears of US sanctions. In an effort to salvage the fragile nuclear deal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani highly appreciated Europe’s “big steps” to maintain business with Tehran, regardless of US sanctions. However, Europe’s diplomatic and economic efforts do not seem to be enough to offset the damage brought about by Washington’s JCPOA withdrawal, prompting Iran to repeatedly warn of its declining patience to stay in a deal that was unilaterally broken by the US. Iran recently affirmed that it will possibly make a decision to withdraw from the JCPOA in the case that the European Union (EU), China and Russia could not ensure Iran’s rights under the deal.

In the legal battle between the US and Iran, Washington does not seem to receive support from any sides. The ICJ’s ruling contributed to pushing the US into a “lonely” situation, while asserting its support for Iran’s opposition to Washington’s unilateral sanctions. However, the retaliatory moves from the US signals a possibility that Washington will once again ignore the decision by the court.

The ICJ’s verdict is seen as a temporary solution to cool down Iran’s fierce response to US sanctions. There is no guarantee that the decision will be complied with by the US. Washington has even called for a full review of international agreements that force the US to abide by the ICJ’s binding decisions. Although Iran is seizing the advantage over the US in some respects, with a history of tense relations between the two sides, the US-Iran confrontation is expected to proceed in an unpredictable manner.