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Rejecting US Claims They Don't Harm Humanitarian Aid, UN Court Orders Easing of Sanctions Iran Calls 'Illegal and Cruel'

"The U.S. of course will disregard the ruling," says Trita Parsi, "but Iran's aim likely was to establish that it is the U.S., and not Iran, that is the rogue nation now."

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif celebrated an order from the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Wednesday that the Trump administration to ease sanctions on Iran. (Photo: Meghdad Madadi/Tasnim News Agency/cc)

The United Nations' highest court on Wednesday ordered the Trump administration to ease sanctions on Iran that are impacting humanitarian aid and aviation safety, ruling that U.S. assurances the economic limitations would not endanger both "were not adequate."

"Iran's strategy of taking the U.S. to the international court has paid off," responded Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). "The U.S. of course will disregard the ruling, but Iran's aim likely was to establish that it is the U.S., and not Iran, that is the rogue nation now."

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, in a tweet, called the decision "another failure for sanctions-addicted [U.S. government] and victory for rule of law." Echoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's remarks to the United Nations last week, Zarif added that it is "imperative for int'l community to collectively counter malign U.S. unilateralism."

The preliminary ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ)—which Washington is expected to challenged—comes after President Donald Trump in May announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposing economic sanctions, despite warnings against doing so from the international community.

Since then, European and Iranian leaders have been trying to salvage the nuclear deal—officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—as Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly have worked to "foment unrest" in Iran and lay the groundwork for war.

"It has become difficult if not impossible for Iran, Iranian companies, and nationals to engage in international financial transactions that would allow them to purchase items not covered, in principle, by the measures, such as foodstuffs, medical supplies and medical equipment."
—ICJ

While the Trump administration alleged that Iran was trying misuse the ICJ, Iran argued to the Hague-based court that U.S. sanctions violate the 1955 bilateral Treaty of Amity, which has remained in force despite hostility between the nations following the 1979 Iranian revolution that saw a takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the subsequent hostage crisis.

The 15-member panel of justices determined Wednesday that "it has become difficult if not impossible for Iran, Iranian companies, and nationals to engage in international financial transactions that would allow them to purchase items not covered, in principle, by the measures, such as foodstuffs, medical supplies and medical equipment."

"Make no mistake: ICJ decision that some U.S. sanctions on Iran are illegal are as much a victory for Iran as it is a victory for the EU," Parsi concluded. "It shows that international law is behind the EU as it seeks to keep the Iran Deal alive, and that it is Trump that's violating international law."

Iran's Foreign Ministry, in a statement, said that "the decision proved once again that the Islamic Republic is right and the U.S. sanctions against people and citizens of our country are illegal and cruel."

"The United States must comply with its international commitments and lift obstacles to Iranian trade," the ministry added. Although ICJ rulings are binding, the court has no ability to enforce them, and as Reuters pointed out, "both the United States and Iran have ignored them in the past."

"The court order issued on Wednesday is temporary pending a resolution of Iran's full lawsuit against Washington by the ICJ, something that could take years," Reuters also noted. Despite the order, the Trump administration, "plans to pursue a new series of sanctions due to go into effect Nov. 4 aimed at curtailing Iranian oil exports, the lifeblood of its economy."

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