International Court Orders U.S. to Ease Some Iran Sanctions

In a rebuke to the Trump administration, the International Court of Justice ordered the United States on Wednesday to ease some sanctions against Iran, including those related to the supply of humanitarian goods and the safety of civil aviation.

The interim ruling was made in response to a plea from Tehran after President Trump’s announcement in May that he would withdraw the United States from the 2015 international agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

There was no immediate response from Washington, but the United States is likely to challenge the ruling. The court in The Hague, sometimes called the World Court, is the United Nations’ highest judicial body. It has no formal power to enforce its decisions, and the United States has long ignored its rulings.

The decision on Wednesday was not the last word on Iran’s effort to overturn the sanctions since it was an interim injunction. A final ruling could take years. But Iran took the interim order as vindication.

“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 Foreign Ministry in Tehran said, according to state media.

Iran had sued the United States at the International Court in a dubious strategy to nullify the new round of sanctions, which have started inflicted pain on Iran’s troubled economy.

Mr. Trump had long scorned the 2015 accord, saying in an address in the White House: “This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made. It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”

Mr. Trump’s decision met with the disapproval of the other signatories to the nuclear deal — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union.

Iran has argued that the re-imposition of sanctions by the United States contravenes a friendship treaty between Tehran and Washington dating from 1955, long before the 1979 revolution that led to a freeze in the countries’ relationship.

But the United States has argued that the international court had no jurisdiction in the affair.

The court said on Wednesday that Washington should ensure that its sanctions do not restrict Iran’s export of medicine and medical devices, food, and agricultural commodities, along with spare parts and equipment necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation.

Judge Abdulqawi Yusuf, heading a 15-member panel, said the international court had decided that the United States must “remove by means of its choosing any impediment arising” from the sanctions imposed in May.

Reading the court’s judgment, the judge said Washington should not curb “exportation to the territory of Iran of goods required for humanitarian needs such as medicines, medical devices and foodstuffs and agricultural commodities, as well as goods and services required for the safety of civil aviation.”

In theory, the court ruled, American sanctions do not include food and medical supplies, but “it has become difficult if not impossible for Iran, Iranian nationals and companies to engage in international financial transactions” relating to such purchases.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, praised Europe on Wednesday for taking a “big step” to maintain business despite the American withdrawal from the pact, which promised an easing of sanctions in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.

The Tasnim news agency quoted Mr. Rouhani as saying that Mr. Trump’s increasing pressures on Tehran were intended to secure “domestic political gains.”

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