Recovering Damages From Iran

On Friday, Judge Royce Lamberth is due to announce the amount of damages owed by the government of Iran to the relatives of the victims of the terrorist attack on the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon in 1983.

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On Friday, Judge Royce Lamberth is due to announce the amount of damages owed by the government of Iran to the relatives of the victims of the terrorist attack on the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon in 1983. The amount will be set by a special master appointed by Judge Lamberth. The amount is expected to be more than $2 billion.

This announcement should be a reminder that, whether or not we consider ourselves to be at war with the mullah regime of Iran, it has been waging war against us for a long time. Michael Ledeen puts it in perspective on National Review Online and in his latest book, The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots' Quest for Destruction, whose publication date is today.

The Iranian regime was found financially liable for the damages to the marines' relatives more than four years ago, in May 2003, and it's evidently taken a long time to calculate the amount of the damages. And it could take longer—actually, forever—for the plaintiffs to collect. The courts have held that damages can be assessed against terrorist-sponsoring states' assets only if those assets are under their day-to-day managerial control. Iranian assets sequestered by the U.S. government don't meet that test. To get around that, Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Arlen Specter are sponsoring an amendment to the Foreign Sovereignty Immunities Act of 1996, which allowed U.S. victims of terrorism to sue terrorist states. Their amendment would allow collection of damages from assets beneficially owned by the terrorist-sponsoring government, which would include assets sequestered by the United States. This bill has bipartisan support in the Senate and, I am told, will also be introduced in the House. The focus of attention next week will surely be on the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker on the situation of Iraq, as I noted in my U.S. News column this week.

But the war on Islamist terrorism has many fronts, and we have many opportunities to move forward. One way to do so would be for Congress to pass the bill sponsored by Senators Lautenberg and Specter.