The ICJ verdict: a confirmation of the United States’ illegal foreign policy actions.

The ICJ verdict: a confirmation of the United States’ illegal foreign policy actions.

After the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the country reopened its unilateral sanctions against Iran, sanctions that directly target Iran’s oil income. Iranian politicians, after searching for ways to work around these sanctions and consulting with EU and UN Security Council member states for ways to continue the JCPOA without the United States, eventually found that agreements between Iran and the United States were the most serious and practical strategy for preventing the sanctions.

The countries goal in signing the treaty, founded on the Treaty of Amity in 1955 between Tehran and Washington, was to protect their citizens engaged in trade, imports and exports and money-transfers, while observing the rights and interests of the other party and avoiding discriminatory behavior. Iran claims that the United States’ unilateral sanctions contradict this Treaty, and have referred their claim to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The International Court of Justice, recognizing Iran’s claim, issued a ruling against the United States.

According to the ICJ’s verdict, the United States is required to remove barriers to the free export of pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, agricultural products, spare parts for airplanes to Iran, as well as barriers related to the aforementioned financial transactions. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that in light of this decision, the U.S. will also withdraw from the Treaty of Amity. He seems to have forgotten that, in accordance with the third paragraph of Article 23 of the Treaty, if either party wishes to withdraw, they must notify the matter in writing one year in advance; if the United States really wants to withdraw from the Treaty, it will take an entire year.

But the question remains: what will happen during this year? According to the law, the ICJ will give its verdict to the United States and give them three months for the country to respond. And, in the event of the United States’ non-compliance, the ICJ will raise the issue at the UN Security Council. At this stage, the United States can simply use its veto power and cancel the verdict. The ICJ may then raise the issue at the United Nations General Assembly, and if two-thirds of the members agree, the Court’s ruling will be binding on the United States.But, the ICJ may only raise votes at the UN General Assembly if they are a threat to international peace, and whether the vote actually has that implication depends on whether Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs can prove that it does!

However, given the history of US’ anti-legal actions in international forums (such as its withdrawal from international organizations and treaties such as NAFTA, and the JCPOA…), it is likely that the United States will not accept the ICJ verdict and that the vote will not affect US unilateral sanctions on Iran.

However, Iran can use its victory in the international court for its own political goals. The vote means that the United States has been convicted in an international court of violating the law, a confirmation of the charges that have been made against the United States in the international community for years. Meanwhile, the United States’ refusal to comply with the ICJ decision coincides with the withdrawal of the United States from the Supplementary Protocol to the Vienna Convention due to a Palestinian complaint regarding the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli regime; these two issues reflect Donald Trump’s erratic behavior in the international arena and the US’ disrespect for any forum that does not serve its own interests.

The ICJ, as a part of its vote against the United States, has called on the country to abandon its misguided and long-running policies of violating international rules and push them to start to behave like an accountable member of the international community.

The text clearly shows that, according to the ICJ, the United States is an authoritarian and oppressive state that considers itself above law and does not accept any responsibility in the international community! This issue should be regarded as an important part of understanding America’s worsening reputation in the international arena. This will lead to a massive and international campaign against Washington that will almost certainly affect the upcoming US elections. In addition to the international arena, this vote will also affect the domestic arena of the United States and will likely change the American society’s view of their leadership. Regardless of political orientation, this will end with the current administration losing favor among those Americans concerned with maintaining healthy international relations.

Iran has now filed another suit against the United States in the ICJ, which refers to the illegal confiscation of Iranian assets worth around two billion dollars. It is likely that the court will again vote in favor of Iran regarding this complaint. Iran’s courage and seriousness in pursuing its complaints against the United States sets an example for other countries to stand up against their cruel and unlawful conduct and try to force Washington to reconsider its actions.

According to rumors in the domestic political circles of Iran, the purpose of these complaints is putting pressure on the US in the international arena, in order to resist the oppressive sanctions and streamline the continuation of the JCPOA through the presence of members of Five Plus One (Three by Three), without the US. With this in mind, it is likely that Iranian politicians knew from the outset that the United States would not accept the ICJ verdict! Iran can now claim that it was the United States who first abandoned the JCPOA, then, when Iran, on the basis of a Treaty of Amity between the two countries, condemned the withdrawal of the United States from JCPOA in the ICJ, the United States withdrew from the Treaty of Amity too. If they want to move forward, Washington must respond to a big question:in the case of talks between Tehran and Washington, what guarantee is there that US will be committed to the results of the negotiations? The question itself shows that the United States’ is hardly a trustworthy actor.

The conduct of the United States against the ICJ has once again shown that it has no orientation toward international relations because the word “relations” itself implies that the interests of the countries involved are at least considered. In interacting with foreign countries, the United States only acts according to its own interests, and, as history has shown, a country unwilling to cooperate with the international community sets itself up for destruction!

Mani Mehrabi
Senior international affairs analyst, Faculty member at the Think tank of International Relations (Tehran, Iran)

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August 2021