TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An Iranian court on Thursday ordered the U.S. government to pay more than $4 billion to the families of Iranian nuclear scientists who have been killed in targeted attacks in recent years, state media reported.
The largely symbolic decision underscores escalating tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s rapidly advancing nuclear program, with negotiations to restore the tattered atomic deal stalled.
Although Tehran has accused Israel in the past of killing Iranian nuclear scientists a decade ago, Iran did not directly blame archenemy Israel in its announcement. Iran has not recognized Israel since the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the pro-Western monarchy and brought Islamists to power.
The court only mentioned Israel when saying that the United States supported the “Zionist regime” in its “organized crime” against the victims.
It is unclear how the court ruling, like a series of earlier Iranian cases against the United States as both sides engaged in a spiraling escalation of threats, would gain traction; there are no US assets to confiscate in the Islamic Republic.
Yet the court’s branch, which is dedicated to hearing Iranian claims against the United States, has summoned 37 former US officials, including former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, as well as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Iranian envoy Brian Hook and former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran that cut off most of its oil revenue and international financial transactions.
President Joe Biden wanted to revert to the deal, but talks have stalled in recent weeks over the United States’ designation of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.
Meanwhile, Iran is enriching uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels under waning international scrutiny. Earlier this month, Iran removed 27 surveillance cameras from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, which its director said could deal a ‘fatal blow’ to the nuclear deal .
The families of three nuclear scientists who were killed in targeted assassinations, as well as a nuclear scientist injured in an attack, have filed a lawsuit in Tehran, state news agency IRNA reported, without identify complainants. The court ordered the United States to pay $4.3 billion in total compensation, including fines.
Iran and Israel are locked in a shadow war across the Middle East and its waters. This conflict has intensified with recent alleged targeted assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and military officials. In late 2020, Iran accused Israel of killing its top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, with a remote-controlled machine gun while traveling in a car outside Tehran.
Iran has also imposed sanctions on prominent US political and military officials over allegations of ‘terrorism’ and ‘human rights abuses’, in retaliation for the US assassination of Iranian commander-in-chief Qassem Soleimani, two years ago.
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