In July 2019, the United States imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, identifying him as an "illegitimate spokesperson for Iran," which is State Department-speak for declaring him a terrorist. File Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/EPA-EFE
Oct. 26 (UPI) -- The Chambers English Dictionary defines "diplomat" as: "1. a government official or representative engaged in diplomacy. 2. a very tactful person." There was nothing diplomatic or tactful in the actions of Assadollah Assadi, a senior diplomat from the Iranian Embassy in Vienna.
In June 2018, Assadi was caught red-handed passing 500 grams of high explosives and a detonator to an Iranian couple from Antwerp, Belgium. He purportedly ordered them to drive to Paris and detonate the bomb at a major rally organized by the National Council for Resistance in Iran and attended by over 100,000 people, including leading international parliamentarians and senior government officials like Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor and adviser to President Donald Trump; former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich; former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper; and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
Throughout history, diplomats, as the representatives of sovereign states, have enjoyed a distinct status. Under the terms of the Vienna Convention, diplomats enjoy special privileges. They are traditionally treated as a guest in the country to which they have been dispatched and their freedom from coercion and subjugation by the host nation treated as essential.
Assadi violated each of these core principles in a way that has sent shock waves across the civilized world. A combined operation by the German, French and Belgian intelligence services led to the arrest of Assadi and three other conspirators, all of whom are in prison in Belgium. Assadi's trial will begin in Belgium on Nov. 27. It will be the first time ever a serving Iranian diplomat has faced trial in Europe for direct involvement in an act of terrorism.
The Islamic Republic has made desperate and repeated efforts to secure his release, claiming diplomatic immunity. But the Belgian authorities have stood their ground. Now, according to a report by Reuters, Assadi has outrageously warned Belgian police authorities that if he is found guilty there will be violent reprisals against European targets by unidentified groups.
A bomb attack of this magnitude, which would certainly have killed and maimed hundreds on European soil, could only have been validated by the Iranian regime's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and by its so-called "moderate" President Hassan Rouhani. Under the religious dictatorship's system of velayat-e faqih, the absolute rule of the clergy and their medieval interpretation of Sharia law, the carrying out of terrorist operations and spilling of innocent blood requires a fatwa, or religious decree, which can only come from the supreme leader.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister, as the minister in charge of all the clerical regime's diplomats, must have been a key party to the terrorist plot, along with the minister of intelligence and security, Mahmoud Alavi, and the leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and their extra-territorial terrorist offshoot, the Quds Force.
Trump has called Iran "the leading state sponsor of terror." Trump has recognized that since its inception, the regime has maintained its grip on power through two essential means -- the internal repression of its own people and the spread of extremism and state terrorism abroad. In July 2019, America imposed sanctions on Zarif. He was identified by the United States as an "illegitimate spokesperson for Iran," which is State Department-speak for declaring the foreign minister a terrorist.
America has also listed the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization and imposed individual sanctions on dozens of key Iranian Ministry of Intelligence & Security (MOIS) officials. Zarif's clear involvement in the Assadi bomb plot has vindicated the American position.
Ironically, the senior diplomat whom Assadi had replaced in the Vienna Embassy was Mostafa Roudaki, another trained MOIS agent. Roudaki had been redeployed to Albania by Zarif, with the rank of first secretary in the Iranian Embassy in Tirana. He was joined there by a new ambassador appointed by Zarif, Gholam Hossein Mohammadinia, a former high-ranking Iranian intelligence official. Zarif had clearly instructed his new team of "diplomats" in Albania that their mandate was to track down and eliminate the main democratic opposition to the mullahs, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), who have created a new compound in the country, Ashraf 3, housing over 2,500 of its members.
But once again, Zarif's plans were thwarted. In 2018, Albanian intelligence officers uncovered a plot to detonate a bomb at a Nowruz (Iranian New Year) gathering of MEK members in Tirana. Two MOIS agents, together with Ambassador Mohammadinia and his first secretary, Roudaki, were declared persona non grata and expelled from the country by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
These were not the only terror plots that bear the fingerprints of Zarif. In October 2018, the Iranian regime sent another senior MOIS agent to assassinate an opposition figure in Denmark. He, too, awaits trial on terrorism charges. Also in 2018, two Iranian diplomats were expelled from the Netherlands for acts of terror. In the last 41 years, dozens of assassinations have been carried out by MOIS agents in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria, France and Turkey. The fact that targeted eliminations can happen virtually unchallenged on European soil should be of great concern.
Since the 1979 revolution that brought them to power, the mullahs' revolutionary creed of radicalized Islam has left nothing but death and suffering in its wake. Pursuing their constitutional objective of spreading revolution to create a fundamentalist Shi'ite caliphate, the clerical regime has vigorously backed Bashar al-Assad's bloody civil war in Syria. It has trained, financed and commanded the brutal Shi'ia militias in Iraq. It has sponsored the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. It has bankrolled and inspired the export of proxy wars and terror throughout the Middle East and the wider world. This theocratic fascist dictatorship has wrecked the Iranian economy, plundered the people's wealth, ruined the environment and turned this once great nation into an international pariah.
Deploying the IRGC, the regime's Gestapo, the mullahs have unleashed a homicidal blitz on their own population, crushing dissent, wantonly murdering and maiming thousands of peaceful protesters. Iran's jails are bursting at the seams with political prisoners, many of them young students, male and female, arrested during the nationwide uprising in November 2019. Under the mullahs, Iran has achieved pole position as the world's number one executioner on a per capita basis.
In the summer of 1988, the summary execution of more than 30,000 political prisoners in Iran took place, in an atrocity that surely must rank as one of the most horrific crimes against humanity of the late 20th century. The vast majority of the victims were MEK activists. The mass executions, in jails across Iran, were carried out on the basis of a fatwa by the regime's then-supreme leader, Khomeini. Many of the key executioners from that time are now in positions of power in Iran. Unbelievably, Alireza Avaie, one of the most brutal murderers of political prisoners in 1988, is now Rouhani's minister of justice.
If we are serious about terminating its bomb factories and eliminating its spies, we should close all of Iran's embassies and expel their diplomatic staff. Khamenei, Rouhani, Zarif, Alavi and other leaders of the regime should be indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity and brought to trial in the international courts. The time has come for these arch criminals and murderers to be held to account. The European Union and the United Nations must stop its appeasement of this fascist regime.
Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.