Cooperation and Conflict at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal
Date: 5 March 2010
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Politics
This dissertation aims to examine The Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, the largest mechanism in the history of international arbitration, located in The Hague. The central thesis considered is the unique nature of the Tribunal as embodying elements of both conflict and cooperation at a time of considerable and ongoing hostility between Iran ...
This dissertation aims to examine The Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, the largest mechanism in the history of international arbitration, located in The Hague. The central thesis considered is the unique nature of the Tribunal as embodying elements of both conflict and cooperation at a time of considerable and ongoing hostility between Iran and the United States over various issues. Iran and America, following World War II, set up a unique relationship. This close cooperation resulted in antagonism after the Islamic Revolution in 1979; the American diplomats were taken hostage, and a number of multi-billion dollar contracts and transactions were terminated. Several avenues were sought to resolve the problem. Finally, the Algerian government stepped in as an intermediary to resolve the issue. Iran and the United States agreed to establish the Tribunal in 1981. The level of confrontation between Tehran and Washington was so strong that the Tribunal suspended its operation for months. The Tribunal not only managed to survive, but it also made it possible; as a safe haven, as a legitimate forum and as a joint embassy for the parties, to extend their day-to-day cooperation for almost thirty years. How and under what conditions have Iran and America, labelled by each other as the "Axis of Evil" and the "Great Satan" been able to cooperate in the absence of diplomatic relations? How do the Agents of an allegedly "World-devouring America" and the "Terrorist sponsoring Iran" meet face to face in an institution which itself is the product of severe enmity? All such questions could be answered by the unique nature of the Tribunal: its decisions are based upon "political exigency" and cultural expediency "rather than legal foundations." Two simultaneous forces of conflict and cooperation have been in process: at a time when the American navy was raiding the Iranian oil platform in the Persian Gulf, a big case amounting to billions of dollars was being negotiated at the Tribunal forum through an out-of court settlement process. At the time when this dissertation is produced, the same contending forces of discord and collaboration are in operation: on the one hand there exists Iran-US nuclear standoff on the international level, and on the other hand certain multi-billion dollar oil and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) are decided at the Tribunal. The Tribunal premises have been used as a forum for "deliberation" on major legal and political disputes. It has been both praised and blackballed. At one extreme, it has been regarded as "a gold mine of information" and at the other extreme its rulings are not considered to be applicable in other financial disputes because of the "political compromise within the Tribunal." Iran and America have found it necessary, under the condition of uncertainty, to make concessions to ensure the integrity of the Tribunal and the latter in turn has equipped itself with a proper strategy of survival by establishing its own rules and procedures. Around four thousand cases have been brought before the Tribunal, with each case involving various conflicts of interest. In all of those issues, the forces of cooperation have prevailed. By resolving those cases, the Tribunal has achieved its fundamental objectives: conflict resolution by peaceful means. The Tribunal will cease to exist only when Iran and America open diplomatic relations.
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