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Legal battle between US and Iran opens at UN’s highest court

Legal battle between US and Iran opens at UN’s highest court
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is hearing Iran’s lawsuit against the US over President Donald Trump’s decision to re-impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic after he withdrew from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

According to Tehran, the policy conducted by Washington “is nothing but naked economic aggression”.

“The US is publicly propagating a policy intended to damage as severely as possible Iran’s economy and Iranian national companies, and therefore inevitably Iranian nationals,” Iran’s legal representative, Mohsen Mohebi, the international law adviser to the Iranian president, said at The Hague at the beginning of the four-day session for Tehran’s case on Monday.

“Iran will put up the strongest resistance to the US economic strangulation, by all peaceful means,” he added.

US State Secretary Mike Pompeo described Iran’s filing with the ICJ as “an attempt to interfere with the sovereign rights of the US.”

“The proceedings instituted by Iran are a misuse of the Court,” he said later on Monday.

Iran filed a complaint against Washington in July, saying that by pulling out of the deal, the US breached the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights signed in 1955. Back then, more than 60 years ago, the sides agreed to encourage “mutually beneficial trade and investments” and maintain “closer economic intercourse generally between their peoples.” 

It has been more than three months since Donald Trump, a long-time critic of the Islamic Republic and the nuclear deal, pulled the US out of the agreement. The decision was met with resistance from key US allies, including France and Germany, both of which attempted to talk Trump out of pulling out. The withdrawal came despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed Tehran’s compliance with the accord on numerous occasions.

The renewed US sanctions on Iran have already caused an economic breakdown and a plummeting in the value of the rial. Major EU companies, including France’s Total, Peugeot, and Renault, and Germany’s Siemens and Daimler, have suspended operations in Iran following the introduction of sanctions.

The harshest penalties, targeting critical sectors such as the oil and shipping industries, are expected in early November.

Despite these economic woes, the US is not likely to stop there. Recently, National Security Adviser John Bolton, a fierce critic of Iran, promised to hit Tehran with more sanctions.

“So we will see what plays out in November,” Bolton said. “But the president has made it very clear – his words – he wants maximum pressure on Iran, maximum pressure, and that is what is going on.” 

The EU, however, is not ready to severe ties with the Islamic Republic just yet. The bloc has recently agreed on an Iran development aid package of €18 million (US$20.9 million). The move angered Washington, which said the package is “sending the wrong message” and is apparently undermining its efforts to isolate Iran with unilateral sanctions.

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