Iran’s abuse of diplomatic norms a threat to the West

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Iran's abuse of diplomatic norms a threat to the West
Supporters of Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), rally in Villepinte, France, June 30, 2018. (Reuters)

It is very rare for an active diplomat to be put on trial. The alleged crime has to be extremely serious for a government to take a diplomat from another country to court. But this is exactly what is happening with the Iranian Assadollah Assadi in Belgium — the first time in the history of Iran that one of its active diplomats has been on trial on foreign soil.
The trial is a total embarrassment for the Iranian regime. Assadi is on trial because the regime reportedly tried to orchestrate a terrorist operation in Europe in 2018. French officials foiled a planned bomb attack in Paris against a large “Free Iran” convention that was organized by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) and attended by tens of thousands of people, including many high-level speakers, such as former US House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird.
If the bomb plot were not detected and foiled, it would likely have been the largest terrorist act ever sponsored by a foreign government. Assadi is accused of personally delivering explosives and a detonator to two agents. At the time of the plot, he was serving at the Iranian Embassy in Vienna and was also a senior officer for Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. If he is found guilty, prosecutors have asked the court to sentence Assadi to the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The theocratic establishment has been using various tactics to escape the embarrassing trial. At first, it demanded the immediate release of Assadi by invoking diplomatic immunity. But a German court stated that Assadi did not enjoy diplomatic immunity in Germany, where he was arrested. Secondly, the Iranian diplomat has refused to cooperate with the European authorities and also threatened that, if he is convicted, Iran’s proxies will take revenge.
“During his preventive detention, Assadollah Assadi refused to collaborate with the Belgian justice, but he threatened reprisals. On March 9, 2019, he informed the director of Beveren prison that he wished to meet with an investigator. He told him that, if he was convicted, ‘armed groups’ were ready to act against police officers, witnesses, or the PMOI supporters,” according to Le Monde newspaper. Assadi also did not show up for the first day of his trial, apparently under an order from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
It is unlikely that Assadi would plot such a large terrorist attack without the knowledge of senior leaders in the Iranian regime, including his boss, Minister of Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi, as well as Zarif and the Supreme National Security Council, which reports directly to President and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. This means that any member of Iran’s leadership who was aware of the bombing must also be held accountable. The US has already imposed sanctions on Zarif, calling him a propaganda minister who enables Khamenei’s agenda.
The international community should also be aware that it is believed that the Iranian regime uses its embassies and consulates in foreign countries as cells to promote extremism and support militias and proxies. For example, an Iranian ambassador and 14 other diplomats were expelled from Kuwait in 2017 over their links to a spy and terror cell. Iran’s cultural and military missions were also ordered to shut down. This highlights the fact that Tehran does not respect international standards of diplomacy. Instead, it exploits the trust of other governments to advance its revolutionary and hegemonic ambitions.

The regime exploits the trust of other governments to advance its revolutionary and hegemonic ambitions.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Iran can give its intelligence agents various diplomatic roles in order to allow them to freely travel across the Western world. Because of his diplomatic position, Assadi was reportedly capable of taking the explosives on a commercial flight from Tehran to Vienna without being caught. It is worth noting that Iranian diplomats are key enablers of Khamenei’s fundamentalist agenda abroad. The West must not give them a free pass just because they are “diplomats,” officials or employees of the Iranian government.
The Iranian regime has also been accused of murdering dissidents on European soil. Ahmad Mola Nissi, a Dutch citizen of Iranian origin and a critic of the regime, was gunned down on his doorstep in November 2017. The Dutch authorities arrested and then released two Iranian Embassy staff in the wake of the killing. The country’s intelligence agency also publicly acknowledged it had “strong indications” that the Iranian government had commissioned the murders of two other political opponents on Dutch soil.
If the Iranian regime does not halt its terrorist activities through its proxies and alleged diplomats, governments must take appropriate action by breaking diplomatic ties with Tehran.

  • Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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