By Reza Shafiee
News of Iranian regime’s hit man on the loose in Denmark shocked many when Iran is desperately struggling to show good behavior to win over Europe in its battle with stinging US sanctions.
Denmark has summoned Iran’s ambassador, Morteza Moradian, following the “assassination” attempt by an Iranian intelligence agency, which the Nordic country’s foreign minister called “completely unacceptable.” It seems foolish ordering a hit on opposition figures on European soil especially now.
Bahram Qassemi, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman, tried hard to come up with some excuses to clean up the mess. An Iranian citizen holding Norwegian citizenship was arrested by Swedish security police (Säpo) in Gothenburg and was handed over to Danish authorities.
Qassemi called the arrest “spiteful” “media reports” and “its attribution to Iran is a plot by enemies to affect Tehran’s growing relations with European countries.”
Reactions to the arrest
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: “We congratulate the government of #Denmark on its arrest of an Iranian regime assassin.”
“For nearly 40 years, Europe has been the target of #Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks. We call on our allies and partners to confront the full range of Iran’s threats to peace and security.” the tweet reads. The key word is actually four decades of Iranian regime’s terrorism abroad.
The Nordic countries in a joint press conference supported Denmark. The UK, according to Danish prime minister, has also given a green light to his movie against the Iranian regime. Denmark has clearly taken a bold step and asked for fresh EU sanctions against the clerical regime.
Back to old habits
Since summer, Tehran has change its pattern of dealing with its dissidents abroad and has removed the “moderation” mask altogether.
In 80s and early 90s the nascent theocratic regime not caring about the consequences of its actions hunted down opposition figures in European capitals such as Paris, Berlin and Rome. Now it seems that the ruling regime is revisiting the old terror tactics in Western cities again.
The first stop in renewed terror campaign-this time using Iranian trained spies turned diplomats instead of using proxies such as Lebanese Hezbollah to do the dirty work – was where a large gathering of Iran’s main opposition the National Council of Resistance (NCRI) took place in Paris on June 30.
Even as the rally unfolded, a terrorist plot intending to target it was foiled by security forces in France with the help of their German and Belgian partners. Timing of the plot was significant because Hassan Rouhani was scheduled to visit Austria the next day.
Assadollah Assadi masterminded the plot while under diplomatic immunity from Austrian government. He was stationed in Vienna. Assadi was caught red-handed when he was giving the explosives and detonator to a sleeper cell, an Iranian born Belgian couple to carry out the attack.
Later Assadi was extradited to Belgian where he is imprisoned waiting his trail on terror charges.
According to diplomatic and security sources last month France has expelled an Iranian diplomat in response to the failed plot. France’s foreign ministry said on October 2nd there was no doubt the Iranian intelligence ministry had been behind the plot against the June 30th rally in Paris.
It subsequently froze assets belonging to Tehran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals. The Iranian regime continued with its campaign of hunting down its opponents in the summer and the next stop was the US.
The US Justice Department announced two arrests on America soil on August 20. Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar a 38-year-old man born and bred in America and from Iranian immigrant parents was one of them. The second man was identified as Majid Ghorbani a US permanent resident living in California.
The two were charged with spying on members and supporters of Iran’s main opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
In July, Dutch authorities said they had expelled two Iranian diplomats whom foreign officials say were linked to the assassinations of at least one Iranian dissident, Ahmad Mola Nissi. He was shot and killed in November by a masked assassin in The Hague. US officials believe Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security was involved.
How to leash the regime
To begin with, it should be a coordinated effort on both sides of the Atlantic to be effective. A first step in getting real with Iranian regime in Europe may start with EU implements its own April 1997 decision.
The EU Council of Ministers in 1997 issued a declaration for the expulsion of all Iranian Intelligence operatives from European soil. That order came after a trial in Germany found Iranian regime guilty of involvement in the assassination of four Kurdish dissidents in what came to be known as the Mykonos murders.
Past four decades has taught us a good lesson in dealing with the Iranian regime and it can be summarized in two words “GET TOUGH” if you want results. what Iran dose is somewhat confusing and looks more like shooting itself in the foot. Saving its shaky relations with the EU is certainly crucial but let’s not forget that the regime is facing an ever growing opposition at home.
Since January the country is in constant turmoil. This scares the supreme leader and President Rouhani alike. They know full well that chasing their opposition in other countries costs more than an arm and leg; but desperate times call for desperate measures. This is the key to understand Iranian regime’s bizarre actions these days.
* Reza Shafiee is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). He tweets @shafiee_shafiee.