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Legal Watchdog Seeks to Block Boeing Sale to Iran, Recover Damages for Terror Victims

An Israeli legal rights group has filed a lawsuit in Illinois to block Boeing’s pending $16.6 billion jet sale to Iran, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Shurat HaDin–Israel Law Center, an independent non-profit headed by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, said that it was seeking a lien against Boeing until Tehran pays off billions of dollars in damages to American victims of Iran-backed terrorist groups.

“We are going to seize all 100 airplanes,” Darshan-Leitner said. “If Boeing thinks it will simply sell to Iran Air, which is 60 percent owned by the Iranian government, and pretend it is providing some sort of humanitarian civilian aid to a non-governmental entity, we will reveal the truth.”

Shurat HaDin has already won 10 rulings and secured some $2 billion in judgments in U.S. courts while representing the families of people killed or injured by Iranian beneficiaries like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Darshan-Leitner said the victims were able to collect some $200 million from seized Iranian bank accounts and assets in the U.S. thus far.

According to Matthew Levitt, director of the counterterrorism program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “these cases can be very impactful, both in terms of creating a legal record of Iran’s support for terrorism and in terms of providing closure and financial compensation to the victims and their families.”

While Levitt acknowledged that collecting the damages can be “challenging,” he observed that American “law firms have had much success in finding Iranian assets and making claims on them.”

In September, the U.S. Treasury Department approved licenses for Boeing and Airbus to sell aircraft to Iran, whose national carrier Iran Air was delisted after the nuclear deal was reached last year. However, concerns persist that Iran, which has a history of appropriating civilian aircraft for military purposes, will use the jets to transport arms and troops to Syria. Iran Air flew known weapons resupply routes to Syria three times in June, while a Western intelligence report seen by Reuters in 2012 noted that Iran continued using civilian aircraft to transport large amounts of arms and personnel to the war-torn country.

“If an American company like Boeing is going to profit from multi-billion dollar business ventures with Iran, at least the terror victims will seize whatever Iranian assets are produced as a byproduct of the deal,” Darshan-Leitner said. “Iran should not get the benefit of any new aircraft or airplane parts while the victims of its horrible crimes are forgotten.”

[Photo: allen watkin / Flickr ]