Iran on July 17 filed a lawsuit against the US at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the reimposition of heavy sanctions against Tehran by the Trump administration, claiming the move violates the little-known Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights, signed as far back as 1955 by the two countries.
US President Donald Trump in early May unilaterally withdrew Washington from the multilateral nuclear deal that since early 2016 had shielded Iran from crippling sanctions and announced that Tehran would face the highest-level sanctions in a policy designed to force the Iranians to the table to renegotiate the accord—although some observers claim Trump has an eye on causing enough economic havoc in Iran to prompt regime change. The five other world powers that signed the nuclear deal—the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China—have refused to resign from what they see as a valuable and functional pact but their companies now face secondary sanctions from the US if they continue to do business with Iran.
Reuters quoted a US State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying Iran’s application to the World Court—citing a treaty that was signed when the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, still sat on the throne and Dwight Eisenhower was the US president—was without merit and that Washington would vigorously fight it in the court.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that the case was filed at the ICJ to hold the US "accountable for its unlawful reimposition of unilateral sanctions".
"Iran is committed to the rule of law in the face of US contempt for diplomacy and legal obligations," Zarif tweeted. "It's imperative to counter its habit of violating international law."
“In order to make up for the United States’ re-imposition of illegal sanctions against our country, to reclaim the rights of the Iranian nation and to internationally sue the US for its violations, the Foreign Ministry, in coordination with the Presidential Office’s Centre for International Law Affairs and other relevant authorities, put on its agenda the filing of a complaint with the International Court of Justice against the US for breaching its international obligations, especially with regards to the Treaty of Amity, economic relations and consular rights in 1955," Bahram Qassemi, the Iranian foreign ministry’s spokesperson told reporters.
“After receiving the viewpoints of Iranian and foreign international attorneys and legal advisors, the final lawsuit containing the Islamic Republic of Iran’s complaint about the violation of the Treaty of Amity was registered on July 16, 2018,” the spokesman added.
“In this complaint, it is said with evidence that the United States’ decision on May 8, 2018, to re-impose nuclear sanctions runs counter to the United States’ international obligations, especially articles 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, and the Treaty of Amity in 1955,” Qassemi also said.
The use of the more than 60-year-old long forgotten treaty between the two now enemy states is the latest out-of-left-field action undertaken by the Islamic Republic in its attempt at deploying all legal and official channels to counter US economic aggression against the country.
However, even if successful, the move might not achieve much. Although the ICJ, based in The Hague, is the highest United Nations court and its decisions are binding, it has no power to enforce them, and countries, including the US, have occasionally ignored its rulings.
Under the conditions of the nuclear deal—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—Iran scaled back its uranium-enrichment programme and promised not work on developing nuclear weapons.
The lifting of what are known as the nuclear sanctions under the accord allowed Iran to once more freely sell its oil, natural gas and petrochemicals on world markets.
Trump said during the Nato summit in Brussels last week that with the US exerting increasing pressure on Iran via the new sanctions "at a certain point they're going to call me and say, 'Let's make a deal,' and we'll make a deal."
But Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said on July 17 that if Trump wants to negotiate he would have to "initiate the call himself" because Iran's top leadership was now rejecting any talks with the US.
The Treaty of Amity allowed for several trading channels between Iran and the US including the transfer of nuclear material from the US to Iran’s “Atoms for Peace” nuclear project originated by the last Shah, toppled during the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The European Union remains committed to protecting the JCPOA and finding ways to frustrate US efforts aimed at paralysing Iran’s economy by targeting its trade and investment sectors.
Vice president of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA), Pedram Soltani, told Iranian news outlets that it was his understanding that Europe intended to allocate €80bn to EU and Iranian businesses to boost the country in the face of the American sanctions.
He made the comment during a joint meeting with Austrian Ambassador to Iran Stephan Shultz on July 17. Shultz said the EU was ready to trade with Iran, operate commercial transit routes to the country and pursue further cooperation with Tehran despite the US moves. “Europe has [so far] incurred a $10bn loss due to halted trade with Iran,” he added.