By Hamid Enayat
On February 4, a court in Belgium sentenced Assadollah Assadi to 20 years in prison for his role in the 2018 thwarted terrorist attack against the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) rally. His three co-conspirators received 15-18 years in prison and were stripped of their Belgium citizenship. While this sentence demonstrates a willingness to punish those who opt to hide under diplomatic credentials as they carry out terrorist activities, the reality is that the Iranian regime will simply see this sentence as a sacrifice for the greatest good of their continued power.
However, it is important to note that this verdict is still a victory, both for the Iranian people and their resistance movement, as well as shining a light on the means used by the Iranian regime to continue its terrorist activities throughout the world. “Iran and the rest of the world have been suffering from this terrorism in the past four decades,” said Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the NCRI.
On the other hand, the Belgium courts have demonstrated that they are independent from European policymakers that have pushed appeasement at all cost in hopes of bring the Iranian regime toward moderation. There was also pressure of retaliation by the regime, along with claims of diplomatic immunity. The regime also used hostage-taking of dual nationals and execution threats, as well as suggestions of prisoner swaps to get Assadi back. Yet, despite this pressure, the Belgium court did not bend.
There was documented proof of the regime’s backing of this operation and multiple others. Based on Assadi’s record of service to the mullahs in both diplomatic service and its intelligence agency, it is clear that he was not a rogue agent, but one acting under orders from the highest levels of the Iranian leadership. The attack was meticulously planned and provisioned by the highest levels of power within the regime. Had it not been foiled, then hundreds of casualties among the tens of thousands of people who attended that 2018 Free Iran rally.
This case has proved conclusively that terrorism is a part and parcel of the regime’s foreign policy and is not limited to its region. This thwarted attack was the work of a career diplomat was facilitated through diplomatic channels, using the resources of the foreign ministry and the ministry of intelligence. The regime’s factions, institutions, and politicians put their rivalries aside because terrorism is seen as a fundamental aspect of the survival of their rulership.
This verdict is the opening of a new chapter in how the international community deals with the regime. It is now time for politicians and world leaders to take the appropriate measures that are proportional to the significance of the Belgium court’s verdict and Tehran’s belligerent behavior.
“Those who appease the mullahs’ regime must be aware that the mask is finally off. The regime is certified as a terrorist state by the court,” said Giulio Terzi, a former Italian foreign minister.
While European authorities have managed to stop one terror plot, the regime’s terror apparatus is still intact and able to plan other attacks throughout the world. Their embassies serve as cover to move their intelligence operatives under diplomatic passports. In every embassy, cultural organization, and other enterprises, the regime is funding and nurturing more agents throughout the world.
According to documents obtained by German investigators, Assadi ran a terror network that spanned over 11 European countries. During his time being attached to the Vienna embassy, Assadi made hundreds of trips throughout Europe to pay off hundreds of operatives with cash payments. How many other Assadi does the regime have in place throughout Europe and the world? How many more terrorist organizations have been put into place, being funded through diplomatic channels under the approval of the Iranian regime?
One measure that Mrs. Rajavi called for was the closure of the regime’s embassies, along with revoking citizenship and asylum status of any agent that is working on behalf of the regime. Its agents should know that severe consequences can occur for following the direction of the leaders in Tehran.
“I do not know how European leaders who have Iranian embassies in their capital can continue as if nothing has happened. The events of today make a mockery of the fact that these relations will maintain. Every head of European country has some serious thinking to do,” said former U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli.
There are also calls for the Iranian government to be held accountable for their roles, not only in this and other terrorist attacks, particularly Javad Zarif, the regime’s top diplomat and the supposed voice of moderation in the regime. He is directly responsible for these terrorist activities being carried out under his watch and through his embassies.
“You must take into account whom you are dealing with,” said Robert Joseph, former U.S. Under Secretary of State and Special Envoy for Nuclear Nonproliferation and a seasoned diplomat. “It does not matter how well-spoken the regime’s officials are. These individuals would not be in their position if they were not complicit in the regime’s crimes. Zarif proves this rule.”
There also needs to be a broader policy internationally that recognizes the failure of appeasing the Iranian regime. Four decades of concessions has not changed its policies or slowed its terrorist activities. If there had been accountability earlier, then the regime would likely have not used its own diplomat to carry out the thwarted 2018 attack.
“Today, the truth, the rule of law, justice, have prevailed over impunity. Impunity has failed. Through this verdict, it’s not only Assadi who has been convicted. It’s the whole regime. The whole regime has been behind crimes against humanity,” said Dr. Tahar Boumedra, legal expert and former chief of the Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). “Today’s verdict is a very good example and a source of inspiration for the United Nations. Let us not forget that the criminals behind the 1988 massacre remain to be held accountable. And I am sure that in this case too, justice will prevail.”
However, consequences need to be part of a comprehensive strategy to end the regime’s reign of terrorism. That requires thinking in a new direction about the role of the Iranian regime on the world stage. It is also time to consider the ultimate fix to the regime’s terrorism through democratic change. Despite the costs to the Iranian people, they continue to protest against the regime and its activities both at home and abroad. Now is the time to support them and their willingness to end the terror of the Iranian regime upon the world.