Treaty Termination: The United States’ Response to an ICJ Ruling on Iran Sanctions

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On Wednesday, October 3, 2018, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an order in response to Iran’s request for the indication of provisional measures in its proceedings against the United States—Alleged Violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America)—for reinstating sanctions after withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In this ruling, the ICJ ordered the U.S. to halt sanctions on Iran that impede humanitarian needs or civil aviation safety. In response, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced, that same day, that the U.S. is officially terminating the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran, which served as the basis for the ICJ’s jurisdiction. The 1955 Treaty of Amity The 1955 U.S.-Iran Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights (Treaty of Amity) is a pre-Iranian Revolution bilateral treaty that set out to promote diplomatic and economic ties and regulate consular relations between the two states. Although Iran and the U.S. have not had diplomatic ties since 1980, following a crisis situation at the American embassy, the treaty is still considered to be valid under international law. Neither state had previously cited the treaty’s termination conditions, outlined in Clause 3, Article XXIII. Moreover, both Iran and the U.S. have used the treaty as the basis for filing proceedings at the ICJ since 1980; examples of these include: United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (United States of America v. Iran); Aerial Incident of 3 July 1988 (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America); and Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran...