|Former US Marine Amir Hekmati arrives at an airport in Flint, Michigan, days after being released from an Iranian prison, Jan. 21, 2016|
Despite the fraught US-Iranian political relationship, legal settlements between the two countries historically have not been accompanied by the level of controversy surrounding this latest case. This has largely been due to the effective work of the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, set up at The Hague by the terms of the Algiers Accord that resolved the 1979-81 US Embassy hostage crisis. The tribunal consists of an equal number of Iranian, American and neutral arbitrators who have worked on some 4,700 claims since 1981. To date, the tribunal has ordered Iran to pay more than $2.5 billion to Americans for broken business relationships and facilitated the settlement of restitution payments to the victims of the US missile attack on an Iran Air plane in 1988. Its work has progressed quietly, largely without fanfare or controversy, and has resulted in the peaceful resolution of many disputes between the two former allies.
Private American claims against Iran have all now largely been resolved, and most of the remaining cases before the claims tribunal are Iranian claims against the US government. With about 14 controversial cases outstanding, each with an estimated time frame of five years to resolve, the United States faces the prospect of paying significant settlements to Iran for the next 70 years. Some of the remaining cases include explosive Iranian claims, such as accusations of covert CIA activities breaching the Algiers Accord, meaning the claims are likely to be even more politicized than the recent settlement of a relatively straightforward canceled arms deal.
Indeed, the “ransom” controversy may be just the beginning of a long period of outrage in the United States over “pallets of cash” regularly arriving in Tehran to settle the remaining cases at the claims tribunal. The arms sale settlement makes certain things clear: First, the resolution of valid legal claims between the United States and Iran will take an exceptionally long time to resolve through the tribunal system; second, each future settlement will be accompanied by dramatic cries of capitulation from one side and triumphalist declarations from the other; and third, each resulting controversy will be used to undermine any attempts at a political understanding between the two governments.
There is no doubt that the claims tribunal has been an effective mechanism for resolving significant legal disputes between two capitals that have kept each other at arm’s length for more than three decades. Yet, the slow resolution of its large caseload is also a threat to an evolving political relationship that today largely depends on the fragile willingness of both governments to quietly talk to each other.
Up to now, the tribunal has arguably been used as a crutch that allows the two governments to avoid direct interaction, a remnant of the days when it was unthinkable for Iranian and American officials to sit across from each other to negotiate anything. The nuclear deal shattered this taboo for both sides, and the ultimately successful negotiations were a testament to the ability of the United States and Iran to resolve their differences bilaterally. As such, a legal “grand bargain” that resolves all outstanding claims between the two governments and their citizens at one go may be an exceptionally complicated, but ultimately decisive and effective way to reset a relationship beset by many past grievances.
Of course, there has been no sign of willingness by either Tehran or Washington to expend the immense political capital needed to force such a dramatic end to their legal disputes. If anything, for those invested in the continued hostility between the two countries, these extended legal disputes are an important tool in preserving animosity, and each future settlement is seen as an opportunity to be used for political gain. The ransom controversy has thus proven that even well-intentioned attempts to resolve disputes between the two nations can be repackaged as a weapon against reconciliation if framed adeptly — a weapon that opponents of reconciliation will be loathe to relinquish any time soon.
Meanwhile, the Middle East is on the verge of a historically unprecedented collapse. The regional wellsprings of civilization — the Iranian plateau, the Nile River Valley and Anatolia (corresponding with the modern states of Iran, Egypt and Turkey) — are all under severe duress. Two of these three civilizational pillars are teeming with internal strife and discord. The continued stability of Iran is now all that stands between the region and all-consuming chaos.
The writer of this piece has been strong advocate of a nuclear deal between Iran and the US for years even before the current deal was reached , and rightly so, however the Iranian supporters of the deal should face the reality now.
The reality is this: 1. cheating and breaking promises is US establishment's DNA, the evidence is there , Iraq, Libya, Syria all gave up their nuclear or chemical weapons but the reward was their destruction. North Korea escaped this fate, at least so far. 2. it has become clear that the strategic goal of the US in reaching the nuclear with Iran is "one-sided transactional" aimed at two objectives. a) curbing Iranian nuclear capability while keeping Iran relatively isolated economically and strategically < read: Iran containment policy continues . b) the US is using the deal to bring about ''soft" and gradual regime change In Tehran, such policy was clearly admitted by top US officials including NSA Suzan Rice. this means Iran will not get the benefits of the deal, the promises of "Iran will re-enter the International community economically and politically" , "Iranian people will get huge economic benefits if their government agrees the deal" as Obama breached many times, and "Iranian economy will recover and the growth will pick up", all these promises were designed to lure Iran to sign the deal, but they were intentional false promises.
Now that it has become clear that the US is not keeping its end of the bargain and wants to use deal for its advantage only, what Iran should do?
First, I agree with the writer of this article that Iran should not rush to nullify the deal, in fact, Iran should not play into the hands of neocon/Zionist, Israeli and Gulf opponents of the deal, Tehran should have its own game-plan and play by its terms and timeline, that is right, however Iran needs to have both long term and short term strategy to address the problem. first, the Iranian politicians from both sides of political landscape should not use the deal as a tool to undermine each other, that is what the US wants. this is a matter of national security and it must be above any political bickering. second Iran could the the following:
1. The Iranians should acknowledge the reality which is: the US will not honor the deal specially those Iranian negotiators and diplomats who naively anticipated that the US will keep its word.