A deal to provide Iran with as much as $150 billion in sanctions relief over its nuclear weapons program should be blocked until the Islamic Republic pays court-awarded damages to American victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism, a lawsuit filed Wednesday in New York federal court said.
The plaintiffs, victims of attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have judgments worth $152 million that they have been unable to collect. Similar lawsuits in U.S. courts have generated billions of dollars more in damages. Iran, the lawsuit said, should not see a dime of sanctions relief until those victims are compensated.
By law, the lawsuit said, Iran should not be granted any relief until there is "a certification by the President that Iran is no longer a financier and sponsor of terror. That terrorism condition has not been satisfied."
Even the White House admits that Iran continues to sponsor international terrorism.
The lawsuit, facilitated by Shurat Hadin, or Israel Law Center, names the departments of State and Treasury, along with their respective secretaries, John Kerry and Jacob Lew. The two departments are responsible for enacting and enforcing the sanctions against Iran.
Releasing the frozen Iranian assets strips victims of "their last remaining opportunity to pressure Iran to satisfy their judgments,' the lawsuit said. And it violates terms of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, passed by Congress in 2002. The law aimed to help victims enforce their judgments by pursuing blocked assets belonging to terror sponsors. It contains the phrase "Notwithstanding any other provision of law," which should prevail over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name of the Iran deal, negotiated by the U.S. and the P5+1 allies, the lawsuit said.
The Iran deal therefore undermines "both (i) the intent of Congress to allow Plaintiffs, who are victims of Iranian terrorism, to enforce their judgments against a broad range of blocked assets and (ii) Plaintiffs' judgments themselves, each of which was issued by a United States federal court, the lawsuit said.
The victims recently investigated funds held in foreign banks which belong to the Central Bank of Iran, one of the many financial institutions which stand to gain sanctions relief. But discovery efforts have been difficult, the lawsuit said. Once the sanctions are lifted, victims' hopes of securing any of the money owed to them likely disappear.
Wednesday's lawsuit comes as the Justice Department considers intervening in a separate case that resulted in as much as $655 million in damages against the Palestinian Authority for terrorist attacks that killed or wounded Americans between 2001 and 2004.
Read the full lawsuit about Iran's sanctions here.