A court in Belgium is scheduled to issue its ruling on terrorism charges against Assadollah Assadi, a diplomat-terrorist of Iran’s regime, and his accomplices on February 4. A cross-party panel of Former European policymakers and experts on Tehran’s use of terrorism are weighing in on this topic during a webinar on Thursday, discussing the message the European Union should send through its Iran policy and the consequences of adopting a weak stance.
Alejo Vidal-Quadras, former Vice-President of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014
The Iranian regime is repressive in nature. This should make Iran a top priority in European policy. I would advise policymakers that if you want peace and stability in the region, if you want human rights to be respected in Iran, do not engage with this regime. This has been our key message to western policymakers. Do not engage with this regime, because it encourages them with their human rights violations, their terrorism, and proxy wars. Instead engage with the suffering Iranian people and the democratic opposition. They are your true friends, those you must support. This is what we need for stability, peace and human rights in Iran.
We have been very critical of the appeasement policy toward Iran simply because it doesn’t work. This policy does not work, has never worked, is not working and will always be counterproductive.
Regarding the ruling of the Assadi case, we have decided to hold this conference to put things into perspective. Assadollah Assadi, the former third counsel of the Iranian embassy in Vienna, is in prison and accused of directing three other operatives in a bombing operation against the Iranian opposition gathering in Paris.
Fortunately, this plot was disrupted through the cooperation of European governments. The latest revelations from the trial show that the Iranian Belgian couple Nassimeh Naami and Amir Saadouni, who received the bomb directly from Assadi, were instructed to place the explosive device as close as possible to NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi. I was sitting very close to Madam Rajavi. First-rank political figures were sitting in a space of a few meters around her. You can imagine the consequences if such an attack succeeded.
The attack could have caused hundreds of deaths. The consequences would have been catastrophic. The Belgian prosecutor has provided evidence that Assadi brought half a kilogram of explosive TATP.
Assadi brought this explosive device on a commercial flight from Tehran to Vienna and carried it in his diplomatic suitcase. He also brought 22,000 euros in cash to pay for the expenses of the operation. Assadi instructed the couple on operating and detonating the device.
There was a third conspirator in the event. As is evident, this was a professionally organized terrorist attack. All these people face long-term prison sentences. The prosecutors are asking for 15-20-year sentences. On instructions from the regime, Assadi has refused to appear in court and claims to have diplomatic immunity. It’s ironic that such a criminal claims to have diplomatic immunity to kill hundreds of innocents.
Assadi also threatened the Belgian government and said that groups in the Middle East might retaliate if he receives a sentence. A major point of interest is the relationship between Assadi and the political leadership of Iran. Assadi is not a rogue terrorist. He is part of the regime and at the top of the hierarchy are the most prominent authorities of the Iranian regime.
The prosecutors have stated that these persons received directions directly from the Iranian regime. Assadi is the head of a network of terror that extends to 11 European countries. This is the tip of the iceberg.
We know that the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the regime President Hassan Rouhani and the always-smiling Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, all three knew about the attack, all three agreed to the attack, and all three ordered it. If you reflect on this, you can imagine the scope of this attack.
The Belgian judiciary will declare the ruling of the court soon. Regardless of the final outcome, we must fix our attention to the importance of this case. Because this is a ring on the bell of the European Union and European states. If they do not treat this seriously, it will be repeated. If there’s another attack, it might succeed. It might be of a bigger dimension. All these governments, and the people of the External Action Service, the High Representative, the Council, they must be very attentive to the result of this trial.
If they ignore it and go on with business as usual, there will be another worse attack.
Giulio Terzi, former Italian Foreign Minister
The basic scenario European Leaders must recognize in dealing with Iran is that of a regime which is the number one in the world as State sponsor of terrorism; a regime which fuels wars by proxies in the entire Middle East; which supports murderous, corrupt dictators in their grasp on power; which props up , by contributing to their illicit trade , every sort of international outlaws, criminal organizations, and individuals.
I. The news recently reported by the German media say that when Assadollah Assadi was arrested by the police in Germany, a green notebook was found in his car with important information about the 2018 bomb plot, his actions and travels in European countries, and the amounts of money he had given to different operatives in Europe.
Based on this notebook, Assadi had at least 289 visits to different countries in Europe. 144 of these visits were to Germany. 41 to France and 13 to Italy. In these visits, he met people and paid them cash. Assadollah Assadi was at the head of the Iranian regime’s intelligence network in Europe and he was doing all these under the pretext of being a diplomat in an Iranian embassy.
Now Assadi is caught but his network is still there. Only 3 of his operatives who were in Belgium, were trapped and arrested together with him in the foiled plot of Villepinte. What about the remaining who are unknown? What if Tehran wants to send another diplomat like Assadi to replace him and continue to work with this network of espionage and terrorism?
Probably that’s already happening!
II. How is Europe going to stop these terrorist activities , activities that are increasingly planned and perpetrated on European soil, constantly followed by absurd denials and insulting arrogance, even when there is a huge amount of evidence ?
How are the European Governments going to stop this rapidly increasing terrorism against European citizens and against Iranian political refugees ?
These are people that all the European Governments have the legal, political , and moral obligation to protect : from being threatened, attacked , and even assassinated by Iranian intelligence ,by Iranian Diplomats and Iranian agents!
Are the European Leaders still dreaming about the chances that a blind policy of appeasement may warm up the hearts of the criminals sitting in the Iranian government?
Do EU Leaders still believe that the Iranian State’s terrorism, which is a “pillar” for the Islamic Republic’s Foreign and Security policy, may disappear , like a miracle ? That it may disappear only thanks to the current European policy of silence and inaction towards all these crimes of the Mullahs?
III. There is a substantial rising pressure in the European public opinion and among EU Institutions in favor of a much more assertive response to terrorist planned attacks, such as the one organized in Villepinte.
In the run-up to Assadi’s trial, a group of 240 European lawmakers addressed an official request to the High Representative Josep Borrell, to support a comprehensive review of EU policy on Iran. It is expected
that the European Parliament in its entirety sends a new and clear message to H.R. Josep Borrell that: “Business as usual is enough”.
In this perspective, in a letter that I signed a few days ago -together with other 20 former member of European Governments, from 12 countries – to the President of the European Council , Charles Michel; the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell; the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, as well as the leaders of the EU , in this letter we urged the EU Leaders to take firm measures against the Iranian regime’s terrorism .
We wrote that we remain deeply concerned that the EU is still failing to take adequate measures. The EU only designated two people and a section of the MOIS and continued business as usual; which is unacceptable.
Europe’s lack of proper action has emboldened the Iranian authorities in
pursuit of their malign activities including terrorism in Europe, convincing them that they have impunity and whatever they do in Europe, even bombing a peaceful rally which could lead to hundreds of deaths, there will be no consequences. Europe has its own share of responsibility about the current situation.
IV. The reasons for an urgent EU policy review towards Iran are the following:
- European-Iranian relations must be made contingent upon the regime taking concrete steps to dismantle its terrorist infrastructure and halt its malign activity especially on Western soil.
- Against the regime’s use of diplomatic cover to carry out terrorist acts, the necessary practical warnings should be given to Tehran: first and foremost, the closure of its embassies and the expulsion of its
ambassadors and diplomats every time that a serious evidence of terrorist activity is detected by the European States intelligence or police.
- The Assadi and his accomplices trial has already gone a long way toward publicly revealing how the terrorist plot was undertaken with the full knowledge and blessing of Iranian regime authorities. The investigators have established that Assadi acted on behalf of the State of Iran; there were reports that the Iranian regime’s blessing came specifically from both the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the President Hassan Rouhani. This underscores the fundamental unity between the “hardline” and “reformist” factions that share power within the Iranian regime.
It is furthermore with the knowledge of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, that Iran has been engaged and is engaging in acts of terrorism. In fact, the regime and in particular FM Javad Zarif, are criminally using the kidnapping of foreign, or dual – citizen: innocent people in order to seek a “prisoners exchange” with Assadi. The pending executions of Professor Djalali, halted after intense contacts between the FMs of Sweden, Belgium, Italy and Mr. Zarif, was announced and suspended according to a meticulously conceived script, made public in order to influence the trial in Belgium.
V. The purpose of the letter I have mentioned underlined the following needed and urgent actions:
- Those who have ordered these terrorist acts and are among Iran’s high-ranking authorities must be pursued and brought to justice. This is a necessary and deterrent action against the godfather of
international terrorism in the world today.
- Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, must be held accountable for his diplomat’s proven role in plotting to blow up a peaceful rally in Villepinte. In this respect, the activities of Iran’s embassies, religious and
cultural centers need to be scrutinized and the diplomatic relations with Iran need to be downgraded and return to normal diplomatic relations be subject to Iran packing-up its terrorist apparatus in Europe and giving assurances that it will never engage in terrorism in Europe again.
- The Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and the IRGC must be designated in their entirety as terrorist entities. Put their agents and mercenaries in European countries on trial, punish and expel them. Granting political asylum and citizenship to these mercenaries in European countries should be a red line.
- It has also to be stressed the need for a firm approach to any attempt of blackmail, extortion, and hostage taking by the Iranian regime which has already raised such threats through its arrested
terrorist diplomat with the Belgian judiciary. Appeasing this regime is feeding the crocodile.
- Finally, Iran has resumed enriching uranium to 20% purity in January 2021, yet another breach of the nuclear deal. This should be strongly condemned by European leaders. We will welcome European
call for sanctions on Iran.
Struan Stevenson, former MEP representing Scotland (1999-2014), former president of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14), and chairman of the EP Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14)
FAILED EU APPEASEMENT POLICY ON IRAN
As we await the verdict on 4th February, following the trial in Antwerp of the Iranian diplomat and his three co-conspirators, we have had time to reflect on the history of decades of appeasement by the EU. We now know that the so-called diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, is in fact a senior agent of the Iranian regime’s sinister Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). He used the cover of being a diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Vienna to enable him to plan a terrorist bomb attack that would have caused carnage on European soil, potentially killing hundreds of men, women and children, including many prominent European and international politicians.
Evidence from the Belgian prosecutor showed how Assadi had allegedly brought the professionally assembled 550 gm TATP bomb on a commercial flight to Vienna from Tehran in his diplomatic bag and passed it, together with an envelope containing €22,000, to two co-conspirators. The court was told that Assadi had instructed them how to prime and detonate the device. A third co-conspirator was posted at the Villepinte rally as a lookout. All four now face long terms of imprisonment.
Assadollah Assadi also faces further terrorist charges in Germany. When he was arrested in Bavaria by German police, they found a notebook in his car which contained details of the bomb plot and the money paid to his co-conspirators. It also contained information about 289 visits Assadi had made to different countries, 144 of which were to meetings in Germany, indicating that Assadi was supervising terrorist activities across the EU and Germany was clearly the epicentre of the Iranian regime’s European spy network. It is clear that Assadi was the terrorist chief in the EU and spent his time, under instructions from Tehran, planning bomb outrages and assassinations across Europe.
There is no doubt Assadi’s terrorist plot was ordered from the highest echelons of the regime, including the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the president Hassan Rouhani, the foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the Minister for Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi. The EU should be holding all of them to account. But there has been a deafening silence from Brussels. Indeed, Europe’s top diplomat, the high representative for foreign affairs and security Josep Borrell, has typically said nothing. Not a word. We shouldn’t be surprised. The first country that Borrell visited within days of taking office in December 2019 was Iran, where he met president Rouhani and foreign minister Zarif. Borrell pledged to “preserve” the deeply flawed nuclear deal which President Trump had unilaterally withdrawn America from, promising that Iran would “benefit economically from sanctions lifting.”
It was the same old EU refrain. Not a mention of the rampant human rights abuse and escalating number of executions taking place inside the repressive regime. Not a mention of their warmongering in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon. Not a mention of the massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in 1988, now the subject of a UN special inquiry. Not a mention of the 1,500 unarmed protesters who had been gunned down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the regime’s Gestapo, in the nationwide uprising which had erupted in every town and city in Iran. The promise of an end to sanctions, so that EU businesses could re-open trade with the theocratic regime, was the message conveyed by Borrell. His signal to the mullahs was clear; for the EU, trade matters, while human rights don’t.
Even as the Iranian diplomat awaits his sentence for terrorism, Borrell announced that the EU had agreed to finance a 3-day online business forum with Iran, at which both he and Zarif would make keynote speeches. In fact, the conference, which had been due to start on 13th December, was postponed at the last minute after the theocratic regime hanged yet another former European resident on the preceding weekend. Borrell’s willingness to participate in such an event demonstrated clearly his wretched appeasement of this pariah regime.
Borrell may be a new singer, but this is an old song, which, as a former MEP, I am very familiar with. From 1999 to 2009, Javier Solana occupied the EU’s top diplomatic role. He kow-towed to the mullahs on his frequent visits to Tehran. Solana’s disastrous term in office was followed by two further equally ignominious high representatives. The completely inept Baroness Catherine Ashton held the post from 2009 to 2014. She was succeeded by the Italian socialist Federica Mogherini, who wore the headscarf when visiting Tehran and posed for selfies with the mullahs. Both reinforced the EU’s failed policy of appeasement. In doing so they sent a catastrophically wrong signal to Tehran. By offering concession after concession, the West played into the mullahs’ hands, emboldening the clerics to continue their path of defiance and terror.
The trial of the Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi is simply the tip of a massive terrorist iceberg. The theocratic regime has used its embassies as terror cells and bomb factories for decades, perpetrating bomb attacks, murders and kidnappings around the world. Now that one of their top agents has been caught red-handed, this must surely be a signal to the west that appeasement has failed? President Biden and his Secretary of State Tony Blinken, should think again about re-opening negotiations with this pariah regime. The US, EU and UN must begin a new policy of backing the oppressed Iranian people and not their tyrannical rulers.
As High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security, Josep Borrell has a duty to protect the lives of EU citizens. His grovelling acquiescence to the theocratic fascist regime in Tehran puts the lives of our citizens at risk. Decades of appeasement must end and the ISJ will not rest until the guilty are called to account. Borrell’s silence is no longer acceptable. The EU must immediately list the IRGC as a terrorist organisation. It must expel all of Iran’s agents and spies from Europe and it must close down Iranian embassies until we get a cast-iron guarantee that they will no longer be used for terrorist purposes. On 4th February, when the verdict on the terrorist-diplomat is pronounced, the eyes of the world will be on Josep Borrell.
Paulo Casaca, former member of the European Parliament from Portugal
Diplomatic Immunity or Terrorism Impunity?
The day set by the Judicial Criminal Court of Antwerp for reading the sentence regarding the terrorist plot, masterminded by the Islamic Republic of Iran, against a mass gathering of people in the suburbs of Paris is approaching. It is perhaps appropriate to reflect on what is meant by defendants when they claim ‘diplomatic immunity’ for their acts.
The Belgian security and judicial authorities – in strict cooperation with other European law enforcement and judicial institutions – produced extremely strong and clear evidence of the Iranian regime’s use of its diplomatic corpus to promote terrorism and crime in European soil.
For over forty years Islamo-fascist authorities have enjoyed impunity for crimes committed in their own country and elsewhere in the world. They have always relied on the lack of political courage and honesty among those in charge in democratic countries. However, perhaps what we now witness in Belgium, in the Antwerp trial, is a sign that the situation is finally changing.
As one of the tens of thousands of potential victims of the 2018 Bomb attack orchestrated by Iranian authorities, I would like to thank those institutions in Belgium and other European countries for their professionalism. I would also like to commend them for their refusal to give way to any pressure.
Facing the mountain of evidence presented in Antwerp, the mullahs ceased denying the obvious and instead resorted to their usual tactic of blackmail and threats.
As they fail to contest one single fact shown in the trial, they now claim that the chief of the terrorist cell responsible for the planned bombing has ‘diplomatic immunity’.
First, the issue of diplomatic immunity was already settled in late September 2018 when the Superior Regional Court of Bamberg in Bavaria stated that:
The suspect cannot cite diplomatic immunity because he was on a several-day holiday trip outside of his host state, Austria, and not travelling between his host country and the state that dispatched him.
Second, Austrian authorities denied him the diplomatic immunity he previously enjoyed in Austria (and nowhere else), since diplomatic immunity cannot be claimed to develop terrorist activities – even less to develop them in third countries;
Third, the Vienna Convention cannot be appealed to for the purposes of covering the transport of bombs as ‘diplomatic mail’ in a commercial flight and to mastermind terrorism acts either in Austria or in neighbouring countries;
Fourth, the Islamist terror regime imposed in Iran in 1979 itself denied legitimate diplomatic immunity by ransacking an Embassy and taking hostage diplomats for over one year.
When the Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry claims ‘diplomatic immunity’, what is meant is the maintenance of the ‘terrorism impunity’ enjoyed through all these decades. The terrorism impunity that allowed Iran to sow death and destruction both within the country and around the World on the shadow of a religious supremacist, genocidal ideology in no way different from Nazism and other inhuman ideologies.
European anti-terrorist authorities have also fulfilled their duty of protecting the lives of European citizens and their right to peacefully express political opinions by proscribing as a terrorist organisation the ‘Directorate for Internal Security of the Iranian Ministry for Intelligence and Security’, as well as the diplomat/terrorist Assadollah Asadi and the leaders of the Jerusalem force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
It is worth noting that Iran has been in the last few years the only country in the World whose entire branches of administration and senior political leaders have been proscribed as terrorists by the European Council.
But whereas European law enforcement and judicial authorities have thus set a new precedent of ethical and professional stands on the fight against terrorism, the European institution in charge of diplomacy remains adrift.
The European External Action Service remained silent on the Iranian heinous terrorist attack against Europe; yet it has condemned as a ‘criminal act’ the execution of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard General responsible for the Iranian nuclear programme. This condemnation was publicized on the day after the Antwerp Criminal Court opened its public proceedings.
The European diplomacy is also yet to make clear to Iranian authorities what is to be made of the nonsense claim of ‘diplomatic immunity’ to perform terrorist actions in Europe. Instead of this clarification, it has multiplied gestures pleading to reward Iranian authorities for their aggressive behaviour with a revamped nuclear agreement.
It is worth noting the absence of the institution responsible for European-level diplomacy from the declaration produced on January the 6 by the European troika joining the United Kingdom, Germany and France expressing dismay before the development of the Iranian nuclear plan.
The European External Action Service did follow the lead of the European troika, five days after the initial declaration, producing a declaration of its own – albeit one in a contrasting and far weaker tone.
European institutions should reinforce European unity, strengthen the rule of law, uphold the respect of the principles of separation of powers, and above all ensure the protection of the values that keep our countries together – among them freedom of political expression and security from terror threats. They should not act as ‘echo chambers’ of foreign, hostile, totalitarian powers aiming to subdue Europe.
European citizens have the right to ask their European institutions to make it clear that the Iranian theocracy is not to claim ‘diplomatic immunity’ to enjoy ‘terrorism impunity’; that universal values are more important than commercial interests; and that all European organisms will work together for the sake of defending a clear and strong European position before its enemies.