Society

Ex-Iranian President Asks Obama To Unfreeze Assets

| by Nik Bonopartis
Former Iranian President Mahmoud AhmadinejadFormer Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has asked President Barack Obama to return roughly $2 billion in Iranian assets the U.S. government froze earlier in 2016. The Iranian foreign currency reserves, which were kept in New York bank accounts, were seized despite Iran's agreement to halt its nuclear weapons program.

On April 20, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the $2 billion in frozen assets should be used to compensate American families of people killed in Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, according to Reuters.

Those victims included the families of 241 U.S. Marines who were killed in the 1983 bombing of a barracks in Beirut. Although the Iranian government has never admitted responsibility for the attack, the government built a memorial to the bombers in a Tehran cemetery in 2004.

In his letter to Obama, Ahmadinejad complained the U.S. was sticking to "the same hostile policies" it has employed against Iran for decades, despite the 2015 nuclear deal and efforts by current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to improve the country's relationship with the U.S.

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"I passionately advise you not to let the historical defamation and bitter incident be recorded under your name," Ahmadinejad wrote to Obama, referring to the ongoing Iranian claim the country was not responsible for the Beirut attack.

Ahmadinejad, who held Iran's top political post from 2005 to 2013, is perhaps best known in the U.S. for antagonizing Obama and former President George W. Bush, and for repeatedly calling for the destruction of Israel. In 2007, he delivered a controversial speech at Columbia University in New York City, where he said Iran is misunderstood, denied the Holocaust, and claimed his country respects the rights of women and people of all sexualities.

"In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country," Ahmadinejad famously said.

The former Iranian president also held a Holocaust denial conference in his home country, where he hosted former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and was the subject of a mocking "Saturday Night Live" skit in which he was played by Fred Armisen.

Although Ahmadinejad ended his presidential term on a sour note and was blamed for creating new tensions with the west, Agence France-Presse noted the former president remains popular among Iran's poor, and has been working on mounting a political comeback.

Ahmadinejad released the letter on his website, according to the Associated Press.

“It is the clear expectation of the Iranian nation that the particular case of property seizure ... be quickly fixed by your excellency," he wrote. "And that not only the Iranian nation’s rights be restored and the seized property released and returned, but also the damaged caused be fully compensated for."

Sources: Agence France Press via Yahoo, Associated Press via New York Daily News, Fox News, Fortune, CNN / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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