Back in 2004, families of those lost in the September 11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center — parents, spouses, siblings, and children — filed a lawsuit against Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the deaths of more than a 1,000 people of the nearly 3,000 lost that day.
The lawsuit stalled until 2016, when Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (originally vetoed by then-President Barack Obama on the grounds that it made the U.S. vulnerable to similar lawsuits. Congress overrode the veto). On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered Iran to pay billions of dollars in restitution for their part in the attack.
The court ruled that Iran owed each person who lost a spouse $12.5 million, a parent $8.5 million, a child $8.5 million, and a sibling $4.25 million.
The ruling is largely symbolic. Iran has never responded to the lawsuit, and the U.S. has no mechanism to force them to pay.
Then there’s the matter of the 9/11 Commission report that, contrary to what the lawsuit alleges, found that Iran provided no direct support for the 2001 attack. The lawsuit, in fact, is rumored to be mostly a gateway ruling in a broader effort to blame Saudi Arabia for the attack. The judge who ruled in favor of the families has rejected a bid by Riyadh to throw out the lawsuit.
Regardless, the symbolism is timely, given recent news Israel has absconded with Iranian documents they say proves Tehran struck the Iran deal with the Obama administration with a secret plan to build nuclear weapons, something the Obama administration insisted at the time could never happen.
As part of the Iran deal, economic sanctions were lifted and the Iranian economy improved to the tune of a 12.5% growth from 2016 to 2017.