American victims of terror want to strike back at their attackers. One way could be by court rulings allowing seizure of the assets of terror states and their terror affiliates. The idea is, hurt them financially and their terrorism will be deterred and their victims compensated. For many years survivors and families of victims of the 9-11 attacks have tried to secure the right to bring civil suits agains state sponsors of terrorism, especially Saudi Arabia, as set forth in a bill entitled, Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).
Bolstering their efforts for the past thirteen years, former Senator Bob Graham has claimed that a classified portion of a 2002 joint investigation by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, the so-called “28 pages,” showed a connection between the government of Saudi Arabia and the 9-11 attacks.
In that regard, two recent developments are important. The Senate passed the JASTA bill and then, while the bill is pending in the House, the “28 pages” were declassified and published.
Instead of strengthening the argument against Saudi Arabia and the case for JASTA, the 28 pages showed the Saudi Arabian government had no role in the 9-11 attacks. Despite Graham’s insistence the 28 pages still suggest a Saudi government link to 9-11, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest noted that the 9/11 Commission report, the most exhaustive study of the attacks, found no evidence the “Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded al-Qaeda.”
Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who lead the Senate Intelligence Committee, stressed that it was particularly important to read a supplementary document detailing the results of CIA and FBI investigations “that debunk many of the allegations contained in the declassified section of the [9-11] report.” In short, there is no there, there.
Second, JASTA is stalled in the House, where Speaker Ryan is opposed to the bill. Congress and legal scholars are realizing that JASTA’s elimination of state sovereignty will open the courts to serious mischief, not least of which would be claims against the United States itself.
Furthermore, while civil courts could find certain state sponsors guilty of terror acts, the cooperation of the U.S. government would be required. And there we run into the crux of the problem. It is far from clear that the administration wants to focus its counterterrorism effort where it belongs.
Though the State Department puts Iran at the top of the list of state sponsors of terrorism, other government analysts see that as a problem primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Israel.
So what kind of threat is Iran? And why should we focus our attention there? Didn’t the administration and major countries sign a nuclear deal with Iran? Do we really want to jeopardize that deal just to go after another state sponsor of terror?
What we have learned in the past week may bring Iran into better focus.
First, Israel’s top missile expert, Uzi Rubin, told a Washington audience of defense experts that Iran has developed new missiles that (1) have a range of 4,000 kilometers and can hit Berlin and Diego Garcia, as well as (2) a missile with GPS-type accuracy that can reach the military assets in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Second, the German intelligence service has disclosed that contrary to the terms of the July 2015 nuclear deal, Iran has repeatedly tried to secure nuclear-related missile technology in Germany.
Third, in the past week senior Republican and Democratic members of Congress have revealed to this writer their growing fear of Iran, especially of its ballistic missile arsenal. Their heightened concern has been relayed to allies they visited in Europe and the Middle East with one Senator telling me that the threat from Iranian missiles is so serious that U.S. missile defense systems “have become the coin of the realm.”
Fourth, fifteen court judgments in America totaling $60 billion have been awarded to victims of Iranian terror. An important companion policy would be for the administration to seize Iranian financial assets to make good on these court decisions.
Fifth, and most importantly, the 9-11 Commission report and other evidence has proved it was Iran who aided and abetted the 9-11 attackers, resulting in court judgements awarding $16 billion to families of victims and survivors.
As the Foundation for Defense of Democracies recently reported, “The September 11, 2001 attacks killed some 3,000 people. In December 2011, a U.S. District Court found the Iranian government and Khamenei himself among those responsible. The court’s lengthy opinion included extensive evidence that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had provided ‘funding and/or training for terrorism operations targeting American citizens, including support for Hezbollah and al Qaeda.'”
Given overwhelming evidence of growing Iranian threats, Senators Corker, Rubio, Menendez and Manchin have proposed a 10 year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act, currently to expire at the end of this year. They also seek to impose mandatory sanctions on individuals tied to Iran’s ballistic missile programs and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
So serious are the Iranian threats that Arab nations like Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are working with Israel. There is, as well, an effort to assemble a coalition of Islamic countries to take global action to end terrorism. The alliance would, as the Washington Post described it, have “a military component but also tackle terrorist funding and ideology.”
But no coalition countering Iranian terrorism can succeed without U.S. participation. Especially if Iran was to be made a counterterrorism partner.
Such an idea is far-fetched? Apparently not to the Washington Post, one of whose top foreign policy writers wrote that he could not understand why Saudi Arabia did not ask Iran to be part of their counterterrorism effort.
How ironic. A writer with one of the nation’s major newspapers cannot understand why a counterterrorism alliance would not want to embrace what the State Department declares is the number one sponsor of terrorism in the world today!
And now, fearful of undoing the year-old nuclear Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and unwilling to face the fact that Iran is the world’s terror master and killer of thousands of Americans, the administration seeks to make a partner of Iran, following the recommendations of the 2007 Iraq Study Group that the U.S. should (1) withdraw from Iraq, (2) lessen our presence in the Middle East, and (3) embrace Iran.
Unlike what happened to assassin Tessio in “The Godfather,” the White House is allowing assassins in Iran to get away with murder.