Marco Rubio: Families of Victims of Terrorism Should Be Able to Sue Iran

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., announced towards the end of last week that he was backing U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton’s, R-Ark., bill allowing American families impacted by Iranian-backed terrorism sue that Middle Eastern nation.

Rubio joined a host of senators including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, in backing the legislation and they pointed to Iran’s support of the Beirut barracks bombing in 1983. More than 300 American and French military personnel were killed in the terrorist attack.

“More than thirty years after Iranian terrorists bombed the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, the United States Senate is sending a clear message of support to the victims’ families as they rightfully fight for the opportunity to seize Iranian assets as restitution for the attack,” Rubio said.

“Iran’s terrorist puppets killed 241 Americans in the 1983 Marine Corps bombing, including 220 Marines. Our bill will help victims and their families obtain restitution for Iran’s bloody crimes from money the regime has laundered through a European bank,” Cotton said.

“Our bipartisan bill would help deliver long-overdue justice for the victims of the Beirut bombing. The hundreds of Marine families who lost a loved one to Iranian state-sponsored terrorism have a right to restitution,” Whitehouse said.

The bill was sent to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which Rubio sits, on Thursday. The companion bill in the U.S. House is being championed by U.S. Rep. Greg Pence, R-Ind., and U.S. Rep. Rubin Gallego, D-Ariz.

Last month, Rubio worked with Cotton, Whitehouse, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Ok. and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson to write U.S. Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco on the matter. Pointing to the Clearstream Banking S.A. v. Peterson case, the senators insisted the Justice Department could use it to sue Iran.

“We write to urge you to support the victims of Iranian terror attacks in the case of Clearstream Banking S.A. v. Peterson,” the senators wrote. “In October 1983, Iranian terrorists bombed the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. President Reagan had stationed U.S. Marines in Lebanon as part of a multinational peacekeeping force. An Iranian national drove a truck bomb into the compound, killing 220 Marines and dozens of other personnel. The attack was perpetrated by Hezbollah, a terror group founded, trained, and financially supported by the Iranian regime. Since the attack, the victims’ families have won a number of court judgments authorizing the seizure of Iranian funds as restitution for the attack. Currently, these families are seeking to enforce these judgments against Clearstream S.A., a financial institution that continues to launder money for the Iranian regime.

“In October 2018, the Supreme Court invited the solicitor general to file a brief expressing the U.S. government’s views on whether Iran should be able to protect its assets from these Marine families. Congress unanimously passed the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, 22 U.S.C. § 8772, and members of Congress filed two amicus briefs supporting the victims of the Beirut bombing in related litigation, see Bank Markazi v. Peterson, 136 S.Ct. 1310 (2016), making clear that Congress strongly supports the ability of the terror victims and their families to recover on their judgments against Iran. This case presents your administration with an opportunity to assist these victims, including our constituents, in claiming restitution from the world’s leading state sponsor of terror,” the senators added.

“We believe that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled correctly that U.S. courts can oblige banks to bring funds they hold for state sponsors of terror outside the United States to New York in compliance with judgments against those foreign governments. Therefore, we urge the administration to oppose Iran’ s request for certiorari before the Supreme Court,” the senators wrote in conclusion. “Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.”


Kevin Derby can be reached at

Kevin Derby
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