"In addition to depriving Iranians of their cultural property, a decision to turn over the artifacts to the Rubin plaintiffs would have grave effects for the museums involved and cultural institutions in general. Four American institutions could be divested of objects currently in their collections and unable to use them for research purposes. In the case of the Oriental Institute, an opportunity to complete a ground-breaking research project that has been in process for over 70 years would be lost. The fallout from this case will also politicize art pieces and perhaps make countries think twice before sending their national treasures abroad for the purpose of scholarship – a potential problem for the entire museum and university community.
The use of the Iranian antiquities to satisfy the Rubin judgment could also put American cultural property at risk and cause foreign policy complications for the United States. The U.S. Government has filed several statements of interest with the court expressing these concerns. On June 6, 2006 Abbas Salimi-Namin, the former head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization sent a letter to the United Nations that illustrates the potential for problems. The missive demanded the immediate return of the tablets. While the Oriental Institute had previously enjoyed a good relationship with Iran based on a shared interest in gleaning knowledge from the tablets, the letter accused the museum of keeping the objects “on various grounds and pretexts” and ominously suggested that if the antiquities are turned over to the terror victims, American museums with objects in Iran would “face a similar measure from Tehran.””
I will try to stay abreast of this case as it is futher resolved. In the meantime, for more details, peruse the following links: