Iran Withholding $43 Billion In Restitution to U.S Terror Victims

Regime refuses to pay up ahead of sanctions relief

Hassan Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani / AP
September 30, 2015

Iran is refusing to pay more than $43 billion in court judgments issued to U.S. victims of the Islamic Republic’s terror operations, prompting two leading senators to back an effort that would prohibit the Obama administration from unfreezing more than $150 billion in Iranian assets until that country has settled its debts.

The $43 billion in damages to American terror victims were assessed as a result of some 50 U.S. court cases in recent years, according to official government estimates.

As the Obama administration prepares to release more than $150 billion in unfrozen cash assets to Iran, Congress is demanding that these terror victims finally be awarded their money.

Sens. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) and Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) on Tuesday unveiled a bill that would prevent the Obama administration from lifting economic sanctions on Tehran until these U.S. terrorist victims are paid for the crimes committed by Iranian-funded terrorist proxy groups, such as Hezbollah, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

"Iran-sponsored terrorists have killed more Americans than the Islamic State," Kirk told the Free Beacon. "Families of Americans killed by Iranian-backed terrorism have used U.S. laws to take Iran to court and lawfully win approximately $43.5 billion in unsatisfied damages, so if the United States fails to ensure Iran fully pays these judgments before Iranian terror financiers get over $100 billion in sanctions relief, we risk emboldening Iran and other state sponsors of terror to continue targeting and killing more Americans."

Iran has been held legally liable by U.S. courts for the murder of scores of Americans, according to official government estimates.

Iranian-backed terrorist groups, for example, have killed more than 700 Americans, including at least 290 in Lebanon over the past several decades. This accounts for the 241 U.S. service members murdered during the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, which Iran sponsored.

Attacks by Iran and its terrorist proxies additionally have killed at least 500 Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2000, according to intelligence officials.

U.S. courts have awarded the victims and their families more $46 billion in damages as a result of Iran’s terrorism, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Around $43.5 billion of this has yet to be paid by Iran.

Toomey and Kirk have teamed up to sponsor legislation that would legally prohibit the Obama administration from providing Iran with sanctions relief, as is mandated under the recent nuclear deal, until these victims receive payment.

The Kirk-Toomey bill is a companion to Rep. Patrick Meehan's (R., Pa.) House legislation, which sparked the Senate action.

If approved, the legislation would force the Obama administration to either renegotiate Iranian sanctions relief or issue a presidential veto of the bill.

"Iran is the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism," Toomey told the Free Beacon. "If President Obama insists on lifting sanctions on Iran, providing them with billions of dollars that can be used to fund terrorism throughout the world, we must first ensure Iran is held accountable for its blatant disregard for American lives."

"I’d just like to understand why [Obama] thinks it’s more important to give money back to Iran than it is to first pay the victims of their past terror acts," Meehan told the Free Beacon earlier this week. "These victims have not had a voice through the courts system and it would be a travesty if that voice was silenced by releasing the full scope of the dollars back to the Iranians."

The Free Beacon reported earlier this month that Iran is spending billions to pay the salaries of terrorists operating across the Middle East.