Last week, the six-month interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries to freeze Iran's nuclear program went into effect. As the U.S. and its allies now prepare to negotiate a permanent agreement with Tehran, the Obama administration should review the status of the last bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Iran—the Algiers Accords, signed 33 years ago this month and still in force but now largely obsolete.
The accords, negotiated in the waning days of the Carter administration and signed on Jan. 19, 1981, the day before President Reagan's inauguration, are best known for producing the release of the 52 American hostages held captive in Iran. But the agreement also created an international claims tribunal in The Hague to resolve the complex contractual and property disputes between the two countries.
The Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, which began operation in July 1981, was expected to decide all claims within a few years, yet it remains in operation three decades later. While the tribunal has performed well as a claims settlement mechanism, it has outlived its original purpose, is expensive to operate, and remains a symbol of the nadir in U.S.-Iranian relations.