The image at left shows wreckage in the aftermath of the 1983 bombing of the US Marines barracks in Beirut, Lebanon that has since been linked to Iran. As decided by the Supreme Court this Wednesday, families of those who perished in this attack and other attacks are entitled to nearly $2 billion.
Bank Markazi v. Peterson, which has been more then 30 years in the making, ended in a 6-2 ruling in favor of the relatives of the 241 Marines killed in the 1983 attack (of which there are more than 1,300). On the losing side is Iran’s central bank (Bank Markazi), which will lose $1.75 billion in frozen Iranian bonds currently held in New York by Citibank.
The Iranian government argues that bipartisan legislation passed four years ago to ensure victims’ survivors could collect money is in fact a violation of the US Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine. Iran views this law, which specifically directs assets within the US to families of the victims, as an intrusion into the business of federal courts.
In 2012, President Obama issued an executive order freezing Bank Markazi’s assets in the US.
Iran continues to deny involvement with the bombing and wholeheartedly rejects the Supreme Court’s decision. “Such a verdict is a theft of the assets and properties of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” states Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari. Such a hostile action “only adds to the growing and intense mistrust of US policies by the Iranian government and nation.”
Chief Justice Roberts, one of two dissenting votes, seemed just as upset as Iran. “With this Court’s seal of approval, Congress can unabashedly pick the winners and losers in particular pending cases,” he warns. This week’s decision could lead to a situation in which a future Congress will “extend…the sphere of its activity and draw…all power into its impetuous vortex,” he said, citing James Madison.
Editor’s note: Roberts is probably right. I’m happy to see us stick it to Iran, but this is a bad precident.