Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran’s chief delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency has threatened that Iran may sue Western countries for libel. After some consideration, my view is that this is a contingency case that most lawyers would pass on.
The Iranians are upset about the criticism over their nuclear program. It may not be quite that easy, however. First, truth remains an absolute defense. It would be wonderful to have the discovery process resolve the facts after the IAEA could not.
Second, three are some “libel proof” individuals. With its crazed president, Iran may be joining people like Marilyn Madsen as libel proof due to their notoriety.
Finally, there is the difficulty of proving “group libel.” On this point, homophobic Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could have to rely on a homosexual defamation case out of New York.
In Neiman-Marcus v. Lait (1952), a New York federal district court addressed a defamation claim arising from the publication of the book “U.S.A. Confidential.” The author wrote that “some” models and “all” saleswomen at the Neiman-Marcus department store in Dallas were “call girls.” It also claimed that “most” of the salesmen in the men’s store were “faggots.” The store had nine models, 382 saleswomen and 25 salesmen. The court found the size of the group of women was too big to satisfy a group libel standard. However, the size of the group of salesmen was viewed as sufficiently small to go to trial.
Claiming that an entire nation is a nuclear proliferator does not quite meet the standard. There are 65 million Iranian — slightly above the 25 salesmen line. As for an entire nation, it would be viewed as opinion.
Yet, we should encourage Iran’s turn from bombers to barristers. In that vein, here are few suggestions:
1. Public Disclosure of Private Facts: Allege that IAEA has intruded on the collective privacy of the nation.
2. Intrusion Upon Seclusion: Nader v. General Motors Corp., Ralph Nader was able to show that detective following him closely and looking over his shoulder at banks could be sued under intrusion upon seclusion. Western countries are constantly staring over the shoulder of the Iranians with satellites and inspection crews.
3. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. The West is clearly trying to cause discomfort and distress with its sanctions and investigations.
4. False Imprisonment. Denial of airplane parts and other items have made many Iranians captives in their own nation.
5. Loss of consortium. Well, you get the idea . . .
I hope this helps the cause of peace. I am personally willing to lead a team of personal injury lawyer to Tehran to show how much more damaging lawyers can be than IEDs.