There is a curious story here, and elsewhere on the web. Currently some cuneiform tablets from Persepolis were loaned by the Iranians to a US museum. Some people in the US, related to people killed in Iranian-organised bombings in Israel in 1997, and of the US marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, have filed a lawsuit demanding “compensation” from the state of Iran. The Iranians naturally declined to appear in any such lawsuit, so this court gave judgement against them. The plaintiffs are now demanding that the tablets, Iranian state property, be seized and sold off so that they can get “their” money.
I doubt that I am the only one who feels really angry about this.
It is hard to understand how any US court would suppose that it has jurisdiction over a claim such as this, between two — or three! — nation states. But then like many people I have little faith in the US justice system. I am told that Britons find these courts unwilling to rule against US citizens, and that in their law-suits, justice takes second place to inflicting injury on your enemy.
I found that reports of the case in the Iranian media did not mention the Beirut bombing, only the Jerusalem one. This makes it a question of an Iranian attack on an Israeli target being adjudicated in a US court as if it was a property dispute in Minnesota. Again, what jurisdiction do they have?
Finally how does the US benefit from destroying the chance of any loans of artefacts from any nation against which some group of its citizens may feel ire? In the Arab world there is a general perception that US policy is shaped by Jewish groups, even to the detriment of US interests. The Iranian articles made this link here too.
In this context I can’t avoid remembering that, when Sir Walter Scott was found to be accidentally responsible for the debts of a publishing firm, and made arrangements to pay all of the money due by stages, only a Jewish firm refused to take part in the settlement. Knowing that no-one in Scotland wanted this well-loved figure in prison, they deliberately started to harass him and began proceedings to imprison him, believing (correctly) that the other debtors would ensure they were paid, even if everyone else had to wait. This lawsuit would seem to be of a similar nature; to get the money, perhaps from the US government, by threatening to damage massively the international reputation of the USA.
It’s a dirty, nasty law-suit, from some dirty, nasty people. The judge who allowed it should be fired. The law firm involved should be struck off. At least some of the plaintiffs need to be prosecuted for vexatious litigation *. No-one should get money for this. The US government should have the guts to come down very hard here; in the interests of us all.
In war, no questions of compensation arise between the combatants, except as the spoils of war. For there is no real doubt that an undeclared war is being fought between Iran and the West. The choices for action seem to be to either make this war much more uncomfortable for the Iranians — invade Iran, or whatever –; or to endure the constant Iranian attacks and pretend they don’t matter; or else to make peace, although I doubt the Iranians want to do this. But whatever option is chosen — and this is not the place to decide –, petty and hateful rubbish like trying to sell the Persepolis tablets is not the answer.
* No doubt some of the plaintiffs are honest but mistaken people, of course.