The Swiss Court of Arbitration ruled (Iranian report) that Israel owes Iran $1.1-billion resulting from a joint oil venture founded in the era of the Shah. After the Iranian revolution, Israel nationalized the venture and sold the hundreds of millions worth of Iranian oil flowing through the pipeline. Israel never returned anything to the Iranians. Nor has it been willing to negotiate terms. Even after Iran filed suit, Israel argued the international court had no jurisdiction. Israel’s positions throughout the proceedings, which have lasted 25 years, have been summarily rejected. This latest ruling is yet another rebuff.
Now, the question is: what can Iran do to recoup the judgment? Though I’m not an expert in international law, Iran has the opportunity to do precisely what Shurat HaDin does: go after Israeli assets wherever it can find them. Yossi Melman argues that Iran won’t do this, but I thoroughly disagree:
A source familiar with the matter told The Jerusalem Post that if Israel is indeed obligated to pay the debt, it would be a symbolic blow to its morale, and would cause some damage to Israel’s public relations and image in the world. “But practically speaking, it is highly unlikely that there will be any change and that Israel will pay the debt,” the source said…
If Israel does not pay, Iran reserves the right to try to sue the government of Israel in international courts and freeze its foreign bank accounts and assets, including property such as embassies. But this would be a complicated legal process, and it is doubtful that Iran – whose own status in the international community is at a low point – would try such a move.
Iran’s international status has nothing to do with whether or not it can recoup the judgment. Whatever deficiency it may face would’ve been factored into the Swiss judgment. The resounding victory means Iran’s position has been fully vindicated. Now, it needs to create its own Shurat HaDin and go after Israeli assets wherever it can find them. The prospect of Israel’s London or Paris embassies being seized as the result of such proceedings would send the appropriate note of seriousness to the Israelis.
In this Walla report, the Israeli treasury ministry claims it cannot pay the judgment because it would violate sanctions imposed on Iran. I note that this hasn’t stopped Israel from trading with Iran as recently as a few years ago. In separate cases, it’s sold cargo ships to Iran, bought oil from Iran, and sold spare aircraft parts to Iran–all while sanctions were (supposedly) firmly in place. It seems that when it’s in Israel’s interest it willingly does business with Iran and violates sanctions.
Israel is pretty damn angry about this news. For some reason it’s tried to censor it so Israel and the world won’t find out either about the judgment or the existence of the partnership in the first place. It announced a dramatic investigation trying to discover who leaked the story to Haaretz, whose managing editor, Aluf Benn, broke it. No news yet on how that’s progressing.
NOTE: Middle East Eye published my latest piece, Dimona: Israel’s Little Hiroshima, about the terrible nuclear secrets concealed at Dimona and the price paid by its workers for their devotion to the nuclear project. They are based on a riveting Israeli TV documentary aired last week. Counterpunch republished an expanded version of the article. Please read and share.