U.S. seeks to 'severely' damage Iran economy, top United Nations court hears

Randal Sanchez
August 28, 2018

Iran is going to the United Nations' highest court in a bid to have US sanctions lifted.

The sanctions target financial transactions and imports of raw materials, cars and aircraft among other things.

Mohebi said the re-imposition of sanctions was unjustified as Iran was abiding by the terms of the 2015 deal.

Experts expect them to challenge the ICJ's jurisdiction.

Although the United States' European allies have protested against Trump's move, most Western companies intend to adhere to the sanctions, preferring to lose business in Iran than be punished by the United States or barred from doing business there. A final decision in the case may take years.

Trump described the 2015 deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, as well as Germany, as a "horrible one-sided deal (that) failed to achieve the fundamental objective of blocking all paths to a Iranian nuclear bomb".

The renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran have already caused an economic breakdown and a plummeting in the value of the rial.

"The current United States administration is pushing the sanctions to their maximum with the sole aim of bringing Iran to its knees", Iran's lawyers said in the court filing.

"But this case is unusual as it is a wholesale attack on worldwide law grounds, on the current snapback of U.S. sanctions against Iran", she said.

The lawyers argued that the sanctions violated the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights between Iran and the United States, which grants the ICJ jurisdiction over disputes.

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In a court filing at the ICJ, Iran's lawyers said the US sanctions threaten tens of billions of dollars' worth of business deals with foreign companies.

In the Netherlands on Monday, Mohsen Mohebi, the lawyer representing Iran, condemned the U.S. for "naked economic aggression" in the first session of the case.

At Monday's hearings, Tehran asked judges to urgently order a suspension of the sanctions while the case challenging their legality is being heard - a process that can take years.

Jennifer Newstead is leading the USA legal team at the ICJ hearings on Iran's lawsuit.

"Certainly, if the court thinks that there's been a violation, it won't shy away from saying so", Lester said, adding other courts in Europe have also looked into the legality of the sanctions.

The United States' lawyers will present their arguments on Tuesday.

Both British Airways and Air France announced the dates of their final outbound flights of September 22 and September 17, respectively, with the returns the following day.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei this month appeared to rule out any immediate prospect of talks, saying "there will be neither war nor negotiations" with the US.

The ICJ was set up in 1946 to resolve global disputes. Its rulings are binding but it has no power to enforce them, and verdicts have been previously ignored by some countries, including the US. Iran routinely refers to the USA as "the enemy" and its officials chant "Death to America" at official functions.

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