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Iranian fund should compensate, not create more, victims

By JAMES ZUMWALT, UPI Outside View Commentator   |   Jan. 21, 2014 at 12:03 AM   |   Comments

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HERNDON, Va., Jan. 21 (UPI) -- On Feb. 1, the memory of the deaths of 241 U.S. military personnel slaughtered in the Oct. 23, 1983, Beirut bombing of the Marine Barracks will be dealt a slap in the face by an Obama administration that still doesn't get it.

Barack Obama, never having served in uniform, fails to understand the insensitivity of a decision he made, to take effect Feb. 1 and the message it conveys to victims' families of the bombing. One would expect those around the president who have so served, such as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, to explain it to him.

Some background is needed.

After Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 during the Lebanese civil war, U.S. President Ronald Reagan ordered U.S. Marines -- part of a Multinational Force -- to Beirut. Established by the United Nations at Lebanon's request, the MNF was to oversee the withdrawal of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

A little known terrorist group Islamic Jihad launched coordinated, independent suicide truck bombing attacks against separate buildings housing the Marines and French MNF soldiers that October day.

The death toll of 241 for the United States was the largest single-day combat loss since World War II; the 58 deaths France suffered was its largest single day loss since the Algerian war in 1962.

The MNF withdrew soon after.

An initial investigation revealed authorization for the attack came from Tehran. The French quickly retaliated with an air attack against Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley; the United States, uncertain there was a definite Iranian connection, rejected an offer to conduct the attack jointly.

Yet, even after the Iranian link was established, a U.S. response was never forthcoming.

It was the U.S. failure to respond to Iranian aggression that prompted Tehran to begin a one-sided war against the United States that continues to this day -- all without fear of retaliation. Iran's aggression has included supplying militants in Iraq and Afghanistan with roadside bombs responsible for more U.S. casualties being inflicted by any single country since Vietnam.

A 2003 U.S. Department of State report tagged Iran as "the most active state sponsor of terrorism." Tehran has done nothing since then to refute such a title.

Today, the evidence is clear Tehran gave Hezbollah the green light to launch the 1983 Beirut bombing and that it has ties both to the 1996 Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia and the 9/11 attacks. By January 2007, Iran was so brazen as to conduct a direct raid, with its Special Forces, in Karbala, Iraq, resulting in the executions of five Americans.

Iran's history of terrorism, while failing to incur U.S. government retaliation, has incurred the wrath of U.S. citizens who have lost family members to its violent acts. Numerous civil suits have been filed against Tehran, bringing into evidence its complicity and generating judgments now totaling more than $8.8 billion.

Included among these is a judgment awarded to victim families of the Beirut bombing.

In 2012, a U.S. federal judge levied an $813 million judgment against Iran for its involvement in that attack. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Royce Lamberth noted in his July 3, 2012, opinion, "Iran is racking up quite a bill from its sponsorship of terrorism."

With that background, we turn to the Nov. 24, 2013, nuclear arms deal negotiated in Geneva with Tehran, taking effect Feb. 1.

While numerous flaws in the agreement won't preclude Iran from ultimately attaining its nuclear arms objectives, it is the unfreezing of billions of dollars in assets to Tehran that represents a slap in the face to the memories of our fallen warriors.

On that date, Iran will receive the first $550 million of $4.2 billion in overseas funds that have been blocked for the past several years. Additional payments in increments of $450 million and $550 million are scheduled to follow over the next five months.

At no point in negotiations did the U.S. government endeavor to hold the Iranian government accountable for its terrorist activities by demanding any released funds be applied to payoff outstanding judgments incurred for these activities. Accordingly, Tehran will use these monies to continue funding terrorist activities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Venezuela and elsewhere.

Funds that should have gone to compensate families of victims of terrorist attacks instead will go to creating additional victim families.

As the U.S. Congress considered passing -- strictly as a precautionary measure -- legislation imposing immediate sanctions upon Tehran in the event it violated the nuclear agreement, Obama pressured Congress not to do so for fear it would upset Iran, triggering such a violation. He threatened to veto any such bill, thus reinforcing Tehran's perception of Obama as a man of appeasement.

Meanwhile, Iran's top nuclear negotiator boasted, should Iran decide to resume uranium enrichment at levels violating the agreement, it could do so within one day's time.

Additionally, lacking any similar concern about upsetting Americans, Tehran blatantly honored a Hezbollah terrorist leader responsible for killing 241 U.S. servicemen victims of the Beirut bombing.

On Jan. 13 during a trip to Lebanon, Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Javad Zarif Khonsari placed a wreath at the grave of Imad Mugniyah, respectfully bowing his head as he did so.

Mugniyah was killed in Syria in 2008, most likely the target of Israeli agents in retribution for Israeli victims of numerous terrorist attacks for which he was responsible.

While the U.S. tried to capture Mugniyah for masterminding the Marine Barracks bombing, Israel ensured he was ultimately held accountable for Israeli deaths.

Obama's appeasement toward Tehran prompted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to confidently declare, the "world powers [have] surrendered to [the] Iranian nation's will."

Also surrendered has been any honor for the United States' own fallen warriors.

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(A retired U.S. Marine, Lt. Col. James Zumwalt served in the Vietnam War, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War. He has written "Bare Feet, Iron Will -- Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie: North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran -- The Clock is Ticking.")

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(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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