Rick Sterling, an investigative journalist and member of the Syria Solidarity Movement, told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear the whole thing is "a propaganda stunt."
The Iranian government was ordered pay $12.5 million for each spouse of a victim, $8.5 million for each parent of a victim, $8.5 million for each child, and $4.25 million for every sibling of a victim to the victims' families and their estates, Monday. In addition, a nearly 5 percent annual interest rate was set for the sum and placed in effect retroactively, starting from the day of the attack. Iran, for its part, has outlawed charging interest.
"I hope the families of some of the victims from 9/11 are not waiting, expecting this money any time soon," Sterling said, calling the ruling "basically a propaganda stunt."
The ruling came in the form of a default judgement, meaning that the judge defaulted to the plaintiffs because the defendant was not present. Iran has neither contested such allegations against them nor commented on them. The ruling also follows two other default judgements against Iran in favor of 9/11 victims' families.
The ruling is just a "rehash of similar judgements from 2011 and 2016," Sterling said. "It actually means nothing. The default judgement just means the defendant did not contest the case in court, so it was automatic. Why didn't Iran contest the case? Because it was a propaganda stunt."
Judge Daniels ordered the Islamic Republic to pay $7.5 billion in March 2016, and in December 2011 ruled in favor of plaintiffs who brought a $100 billion lawsuit against the country, also over the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The only bit of evidence implicating Iran in the attacks that the US 9/11 Commission unearthed was that some of the hijackers travelled through Iran on their way to Afghanistan and did not all have their passports stamped. The 9/11 Commission's job was to draft a "full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding" the attack. Its findings were published in 2005 — including the revelation that Saudi Arabia was the primary source of funding for al-Qaeda.
"Al-Qaeda is extremely hostile to the Iranian government and vice-versa," Sterling noted.
Nonetheless, attorney Robert Haefele, who is representing the victims' families in the lawsuit against Iran and in another against Saudi Arabia, said that "In December 2011, a New York federal court held a hearing and found that the evidence presented established that Iran's provision of material support to al-Qaeda was a cause of the 9/11 attacks and the resulting damage, injuries, and deaths," according to ABC News.
However, while "it is difficult for those injured or left behind to ignore the findings of the federal court about Iran's culpability," he said, that evidence should not overshadow "the mountain of evidence" in his other case against Saudi Arabia.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia, while two came from the United Arab Emirates, one from Lebanon and another from Egypt.
In July 2016, the US Congress declassified 28 pages from a 2002 congressional report on the attack, which were highly rumoured to implicate Saudi Arabia. Those documents stated that, "While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may have be connected to the Saudi government," and, "There is information, primarily from FBI sources, that at least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers."
In September 2016, "Congress passed the so-called Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which was highly controversial and strongly opposed by Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabian allies and agents in the United States, but it was passed," Sterling said. The law narrowed the scope of the concept of foreign sovereign immunity by allowing Americans to make civil claims against sovereign states in American courts.
"Some of the opposition in the Obama administration resisted it strongly," Sterling noted. Former President Barack Obama vetoed the law after it was passed by both the US House of Representatives and the Senate without any dissenting legislators. Congress subsequently overrode Obama's veto.
On September 11, 2001, four commercial planes were hijacked with the intention of being turned against the White House, the financial center of New York City, and the Pentagon. The planes, piloted by al-Qaeda militants, crashed into the World Trade Towers of New York, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 and wounding more than 6,000 others.