By Arab News
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh*
When a foreign government befriends Iran and pursues appeasement policies toward Tehran, it opens the door for the regime to exploit it and pursue its hard-line agenda on that foreign soil more easily.
A recent example is the case of Turkey, which has been cozying up with the Iranian regime and consequently harming its own national interests. Ankara’s close relationship with Tehran has emboldened and empowered the regime to reportedly assassinate dissidents on Turkish soil. The Turkish authorities last week detained Mohammed Reza Naderzadeh, an employee at the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul, for his role in the killing of Iran critic Massoud Molavi Vardanjani in November 2019. The accused allegedly forged travel documents for Ali Esfandiari, who orchestrated the assassination.
The Iranian regime targeted Vardanjani due to his social media campaign, which was aimed at exposing corruption in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its elite branch the Quds Force, and the theocratic establishment. He defected after serving as an intelligence officer for the Iranian government. He had written on social media: “I will root out the corrupt mafia commanders… Pray that they don’t kill me before I do this.”
This is not the first time the Iranian regime has been implicated in the assassination of a dissident in Turkey. For example, in 2017, Saeed Karimian, a British television executive and founder of Gem TV, which runs 17 Persian-language TV channels, was shot dead in Istanbul. Before his killing, he was convicted in absentia in Iran for spreading propaganda against the regime.
These assassination orders likely came from the very top in Iran. As a senior US official previously stated: “Given Iran’s history of targeted assassinations of Iranian dissidents and the methods used in Turkey, the United States government believes that Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security was directly involved in Vardanjani’s killing.”
For four decades, it has been the modus operandi of the Iranian regime to use the territories of countries that have good ties with Tehran in order to export its revolutionary principles and assassinate dissidents.
Another example took place in the EU. After the bloc began pursuing appeasement policies with Tehran and after sanctions were lifted in 2015 due to the nuclear deal, Iran’s terrorist activities on European soil escalated. Regime diplomat Assadollah Assadi was this month sentenced to 20 years in jail in Belgium over his role in a 2018 terrorist plot. Assadi delivered 500 grams of the powerful explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP) to his accomplices with the aim of bombing an Iranian opposition rally in Paris, which I attended. Had the plot not been discovered at the very last minute, the terrorist act could have left hundreds dead, including international dignitaries and many European parliamentarians.
Another agent of Tehran, Mohammed Davoudzadeh Loloei, was sentenced to prison in June last year by a Danish court for being an accessory to the attempted murder of one or more opponents of the Iranian regime. According to Roskilde District Court, Loloei collected information on a dissident and gave it to Iran’s intelligence service, which planned to murder the man. The information included photos of the target’s house, street and surroundings. “The court found that the information was collected and passed on to a person working for an Iranian intelligence service, for use by the intelligence service’s plans to kill the exile,” the court’s statement read.
What is unusual is that this all took place while Europe’s leaders continued to pursue a policy of appeasement with the ruling clerics of Iran.
In order to halt the Iranian regime’s provocations, especially its terrorism and assassinations, the EU and Turkey must hold the regime accountable for its foreign adventurism and reprehensible repression of dissent and peaceful protests at home. They ought to adopt a firm policy and even legislation to expel Iranian “diplomats” and intelligence agents like Assadi, who may be plotting further terrorist attacks. They should also consider closing down Iranian embassies until Tehran halts its terror activities. And, most importantly, they need to designate the IRGC and its proxies as terrorist organizations.
Any country that pursues appeasement policies with the Iranian regime is making itself more vulnerable to Tehran’s terror activities and assassinations.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh