The International Court of Justice is due to rule on Thursday over Iran’s attempt to release nearly $2 billion in assets frozen by the United States over suspected terrorist attacks.
Tehran dragged its nemesis before the UN Supreme Court in 2016 after the US Supreme Court ruled that assets should be paid to survivors and relatives of attacks blamed on the Islamic Republic.
The Hague-based ICJ’s ruling comes amid tensions over recent US attacks on Iran-affiliated groups in Syria, as well as over Tehran’s nuclear program and its support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Judges from the court, set up after World War II to decide disputes between UN member states, will begin reading their decision at 15:00 (13:00 GMT).
Judgments of the ICJ are binding and cannot be appealed, but have no enforcement powers. However, countries can complain to the UN Security Council if another state does not comply with a ruling.
Iran has claimed the assets were illegally frozen by the United States and says it needs them at a time of economic hardship due to nuclear sanctions on Tehran.
The US Supreme Court ruled seven years ago that the assets – $1.75 billion from the Central Bank of Iran and some from Iranian companies – should be used to compensate victims of terrorist attacks.
These included the 1983 bombing of a US naval base in Beirut that killed 299 people, including 241 US soldiers, and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 people.
– ‘Unclean Hands’ –
But Iran denies being responsible for the attacks.
The US freeze is said to violate a “Treaty of Amity” signed by Tehran and Washington in 1955 – well before the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the pro-US Shah and severed ties with the United States.
Washington has previously unsuccessfully tried to dismiss the lawsuit, with its lawyers claiming Iran has “unclean hands” – a reference to Tehran’s alleged support of terrorist groups.
The US also officially withdrew from the friendship treaty in 2018 after the International Court of Justice in a separate case ordered Washington to lift nuclear-related sanctions on humanitarian supplies destined for Iran.
The ICJ ruling in the frozen assets case comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Tehran recently condemned US airstrikes on Iran-linked forces in Syria that reportedly killed 19 people, carried out by Washington after a deadly drone strike on US forces on Thursday.
US President Joe Biden said after the strikes were ordered that his country did not want a conflict with Iran.
Talks on reviving a landmark 2015 multinational deal on Iran’s nuclear activities have now long stalled. Iran denies that it intends to acquire nuclear weapons.
The United States, under then-President Donald Trump, withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and reintroduced sanctions.
Washington has also raised concerns about Iranian military aid to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.