Money in US-Iran Relations

By Newsom, David D. | The Christian Science Monitor, June 11, 1997 | Go to article overview

Money in US-Iran Relations


Newsom, David D., The Christian Science Monitor


In his first press conference as Iran's president-elect on May 27, Mohammed Khatemi made an interesting omission. He placed the onus on the United States for the current impasse between the two nations, repeating Tehran's charge that the US remains hostile to Iran's revolution. He did not, however, repeat a common Iranian demand - that the US release Iran's frozen assets.

By contrast, in a "60 Minutes" interview, broadcast in March, Mr. Khatemi's predecessor, Hashemi Rafsanjani, repeated an Iranian theme, mentioning the "return of Iranian frozen assets in the United States" as a possible "gesture" that would permit Iran to engage in discussions with the US.

Money has been a significant issue in US-Iran tensions since the 1979 hostage crisis. The US froze Iranian assets in US banks and their overseas subsidiaries as measures of retaliation and pressure. Of four conditions for the release of the hostages set by Iran on Sept. 12, 1980, three related to money: release of the frozen assets, cancellation of US claims against Iran, and return of the deposed shah's assets believed to be in US banks. The negotiations in Algiers in early 1981 dealt with each of the three Iranian demands. The final agreement determined the disposition of the frozen assets and established a US-Iran Claims Tribunal to adjudicate US citizen claims against the Iranian regime. Of the $10 billion, $1 billion was set aside to pay awards to US nationals and the US government; $5 billion was designated to meet debts to US banks; and the remaining $4 billion was transferred to Iran. Though not all cases have been settled, the US-Iran Tribunal, located in The Hague, has proceeded in a quiet, orderly fashion to implement the Algiers decisions. The question of the shah's wealth was more difficult. The Iranians were sure the shah had $25 billion deposited in US banks. Lengthy discussions were required to convince Iranian negotiators that the US government could neither locate nor effect the release of private bank accounts. …

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