ISSN 2330-717X

Iranian Embassies Serve State Espionage And Terrorism – OpEd

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According to a recent report by the German TV Channel One, the country’s security officials are still investigating the numerous trips made by Assadollah Asadi, an arrested Iranian terrorist–diplomat. The investigation seeks to clarify whether he operated an Iranian regime spy network in Europe. Assadi was arrested for a failed terrorist plot targeting the President-elect of the main opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Maryam Rajavi, during a large international gathering in France. On February 4, 2021, the Antwerp court in Belgium convicted him to 20 years in prison.

Evidence of multiple payments

A black notebook was found in Assadi’s car containing encrypted notes that appeared to be instructions for the bombing. A second 200-page green booklet contains records of payment receipts showing that Asadi had apparently distributed cash to a number of individuals with Iranian names. For example, one of them received 2,500 Euros, another 5,000 Euros, and another person confirmed the receipt of a laptop. Officers believe that these records could indicate salaries of people hired to spy for the regime.

The German Federal Bureau of Investigation (BKA) is examining Assad’s activities. Among the many questions is whether he led a large group of individuals who were given various tasks, including propagating information and espionage, in several European countries.

The failed terrorist plot in 2018 involved the regime’s entire diplomatic apparatus in a major operation for the first time. In previous assassinations, members of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) only used diplomatic passports, but they were not active diplomats in target countries.

For instance, on April 24, 1990, a prominent Iranian dissident was killed in Switzerland by a terror squad that used diplomatic passports. The judge in charge of the case later stated, “The investigations concluded that 13 people all holding the same date issued diplomatic passports marked ‘on a mission’ were involved in this matter” (The International Herald Tribune, November 22, 1993). He also indicated the involvement of one or more official Iranian agencies in that assassination.

The Iranian regime’s diplomatic apparatus has facilitated its terrorism, while also whitewashing and justifying such activities. Many staffers of the regime’s embassies and diplomats are senior officers of the MOIS. Among them have been IRGC Brigadier General Iraj Masjedi, the regime’s ambassador to Iraq, and IRGC Brigadier General Hassan Danaeifar, a former ambassador to Iraq (2010 to 2016).

Many of the regime’s embassies in the region, such as those in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, are effectively run by the Quds Force. According to obtained information, the Iranian embassy in Turkey also plays a key role for the Quds Force.

According to the New York Times, American security officials said on June 25, 1995, that diplomats based at the Iranian embassy in Bonn, Germany, had a plan to assassinate Mrs. Maryam Rajavi at a gathering of Iranians in Dortmund in 1998.

In December 2018, the Albanian government expelled the Iranian regime’s ambassador and another embassy staffer. That same year, the Netherlands expelled two Iranian diplomats in connection with terrorist plots.

Hadi Sani-Khani, who was engaged in spying for the Iranian regime’s embassy in Albania for several years, recently wrote a letter to the UN secretary-general and the Albanian police. He said that Fereydoun Zandi Aliabadi, who worked as the first secretary at the regime embassy and was also Tehran’s intelligence chief in Albania, ran a spy network in that country against the main Iranian opposition. Zandi took office after Mustafa Roudaki in 2018, who was expelled along with the Iranian ambassador to Albania for espionage.

Sani-Khani says that for a while, some of the agents who worked for the regime embassy in Albania were paid through him by the regime’s intelligence service. The total amount was at least 15,000 euros per month.

In a detailed report quoting two high-ranking Turkish officials, Reuters published new details on March 28, 2020 about the assassination of Massoud Molavi Vardanjani, an Iranian citizen who was killed in the “Sisli” district of Istanbul on November 14, 2019.

Massoud Molavi was a member of the “Cyber Security Department of the Ministry of Defense of the Islamic Republic of Iran” but later became an opponent of the Tehran regime, Reuters reported. It added that on August 2019, Molavi published a message about the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on social media, saying: “I will expose the roots of corruption and the mafia of Bassij Forces and theft of IRGC commanders …. Pray that they do not kill me before exposing it.”

In the latest report on the investigation into the assassination case, Obi Shahbandar, an Iranian journalist based in Turkey, said on his Twitter account on February 14 that he had “obtained credible information” that Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s Minister of Communications and Technology and a former member of the Ministry of Intelligence, had directly threatened Massoud Molavi before his assassination in Istanbul, Turkey.

Conclusion

Over the last three decades, the Iranian regime’s assassinations in different countries have been successfully carried out primarily due to the West’s policy of appeasement toward Tehran. Experience has shown that whenever the regime has been confronted firmly, the threat of its terrorism and spread of Islamic fundamentalist ideology have been reduced.

After the assassination of four Kurdish dissidents at the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin in 1997, when a German court convicted the regime’s highest officials for their involvement in the crime, European countries recalled their ambassadors from Iran, and suspended their relationship with the regime for six months. As a result, the regime did not carry out terrorist acts in European countries for years.

Europe’s security can only strengthen if it takes a firm approach toward the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism. After the Assadi trial, Europe should suspend relations with Tehran unless it receives credible assurances that the regime will never conduct terrorism on European soil again.

Hamid Enayat

Hamid Enayat

Hamid Enayat is an Iranian human rights activist and analyst based in Europe.

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