Iran's support for Hizballah is uncontroverted, so the Iranian government is liable for nearly $100 million in damages to two survivors of the 1983 Hizballah suicide bombing of an American Marine barracks in Beirut and relatives of a man killed in the attack, a federal judge has ruled.
It's the second major award ordered this year by Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the federal district court in Washington, D.C. In the spring, he ordered $1 billion in damages be paid to surviving families of the dead Marines.
The litigation is still ongoing because Iran previously enjoyed sovereign immunity from punitive damages, but recent legal changes removed that protection.
A suicide bomber in a hijacked water truck crashed into the Marine barracks on Oct. 23, 1983, killing 241 American service members. "The resulting explosion was the largest non-nuclear explosion that had ever been detonated on the face of the Earth," the ruling said. "The four-story Marine barracks was reduced to fifteen feet of rubble."
Judge Lamberth entered a default judgment for the plaintiffs. He traced Hizballah's development and the pivotal role Iranian support, training and money played in it. Iran's goal was for Hizballah "to engage in terrorist activities in furtherance of the transformation of Lebanon into an Islamic theocracy modeled after Iran," Lamberth wrote.
Iran's role in the attack was proven by communication between its Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS) and Iran's ambassador to Syria. It called for Hizballah "to take a spectacular action against the United States Marines."
Iran's support of Hizballah continues, Lamberth wrote, citing testimony from expert witness Patrick Clawson that Iran gave the group $200 million in cash in 2008 and has provided "many tens of millions of dollars" in weapons, including 40,000 rockets.
Lamberth ordered Iran to pay the survivors and their relatives a total of more than $93 million, including more than $61 million in punitive damages to Armando J. Ybarra and John E. L'Heureux, who survived the bombing, and to relatives of a man killed in the attack. Read Judge Lambert's ruling here. His $1 billion judgment from spring can be seen here.