(CNSNews.com) – Almost 200 American troops were killed by Iranian-supplied armor-penetrating weapons during the Iraq war, according to declassified Pentagon data made public for the first time on Wednesday.
“According to the [U.S.] Central Command, at least 196 U.S. service members were killed in Iraq by Iranian-made explosive-formed penetrators (EFPs) from 2003 to 2011,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, citing the declassified portion of a report provided to his office. Cruz said that number was being made public for the first time.
EFPs are a particularly effective type of improvised explosive device – a shaped charge capable of penetrating most armor that was used by coalition forces in Iraq.
Cruz noted further that U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford had recently testified that some 500 U.S. troops in total had been killed in Iraq “by Iranian activities.” He pointed out that that accounted for at least 14 percent of U.S. combat fatalities in Iraq.
“That blood is on Iran’s hands.”
(In his testimony last July Dunford – now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – attributed responsibility for those deaths to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps–Qods Force and its commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The official Pentagon number of U.S. combat deaths during the Iraq war is 3,481.)
Wednesday marked the 36th anniversary of the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran during the Islamic revolution, which resulted in 52 diplomats, embassy staffers and others being taken hostage and held for 444 days. In Iranian cities, demonstrators marked the day by burning U.S. flags and reaffirming enmity for “the great Satan.”
Cruz called the 1979 hostage-taking the beginning of “a war that has been waged on the American people for nearly four decades – whether the United States government will admit it or not.”
He went on to list terror attacks perpetrated or sponsored by Iran against Americans over the ensuing years, including the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, the murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem during a 1985 hijacking, and the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996.
Noting that Iran to this day continues to arrest and hold American citizens captive, Cruz said, “Although the United States is not at war with Iran, there is no question that Iran has been, and still is, at war with the United States.”
‘Sovereign duty to obtain justice’
Cruz was chairing a subcommittee hearing entitled “How the federal government fails the American victims of Palestinian and Iranian terrorism,” focusing on how the executive branch has intervened in court cases to prevent the payout of compensation to the U.S. victims of terrorism and their families.
“Despite the slaughter and maiming of an untold number of America citizens at the hands of Palestinian and Iranian terrorists,” he said, “the United States government has rather shockingly failed time and time again to fulfill its sovereign duty to obtain justice for its citizens.”
Iran owes billions of dollars in court-awarded damages to the U.S. victims of attacks including those cited by Cruz.
Damages worth more than $46 billion have been awarded in judgments since 2000. Of those, some $43.5 billion remain unpaid, according to the Congressional Research Service – including $9 billion relating to the Marine Barracks bombing alone.
Last month the House of Representatives passed legislation seeking to prevent President Obama from lifting any sanctions on Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement until it pays terror-related damages already ordered by U.S. courts.
Most Democrats voted against the bill, which the White House indicated Obama would veto in line with his pledge to “veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of the JCPOA.”
Under the JCPOA, Iran is due receive around $100 billion in unfrozen assets, and much more as a result of sanctions relief over time.
Wednesday’s hearing also focused on Palestinian terrorism that has cost the lives of at least 53 Americans. Some of the attacks were sponsored by Iran through its support for Hamas, others were carried out by Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the military wing of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction of the PLO.
In a trial that has gone on for a decade, a federal jury in New York last February found the PLO and P.A. liable for supporting terror attacks in Israel whose victims included Americans, and ordered the two entities to pay $218.5 million to ten American families affected by the attacks.
In line with U.S. law relating to U.S. nationals affected by acts of international terrorism, the awarded damages were automatically increased threefold, making the PLO and P.A. liable for a total of $655.5 million.
But the State Department then urged the court to take into account the impact of its decision on the “continued viability” of the P.A., with Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken arguing in an affidavit that the potential ensuing “collapse of the P.A. would undermine several decades of U.S. foreign policy and add a new destabilizing factor to the region, compromising national security.”
In August the court ordered that the P.A. and PLO must post $10 million in bond or cash pending their appeals against the verdict, and to deposit an additional $1 million each month.
The administration maintains that it does support the right of American terror victims to secure justice, but must weigh up other national security interests, whether the survival of the P.A. or implementation of the JCPOA.
In its statement indicating Obama’s intention to veto the legislation linking Iran sanctions relief to its payment of terror-related damages, the White House said it “supports efforts by U.S. terrorism victims to pursue compensation, consistent with our national security” and that it “continues to work to explore all possible avenues for compensation, but will not do so in a manner that would connect this issue to the JCPOA …”