Denmark threatens to retaliate over Iranian plot
LONDON - Denmark accused Iran of plotting attacks on Iranian exiles in the Scandinavian country and threatened to take retaliatory measures, including economic sanctions, against Tehran.
“There is a need to show Iran that we are well aware of what took place and that we don’t accept it,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said.
The head of Denmark’s intelligence service PET, Finn Borch Andersen, said the foiled plot was directed against three Iranians suspected of belonging to the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz.
Swedish authorities arrested a Norwegian of Iranian origin on October 21 for his alleged involvement in planning the attacks.
Iran denied the allegations and summoned the Danish ambassador to Tehran. “This is a continuation of enemies’ plots to damage Iranian relations with Europe at this critical time,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi.
Denmark recalled its ambassador to Tehran for consultation. “Denmark can in no way accept that people with ties to Iran’s intelligence service plot attacks against people in Denmark,” Danish Foreign Affairs Minister Andres Samuelsen said. “It is the Iranian government, it is the Iranian state that is behind” the suspected plot.
Tehran accused Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain in September of “hosting several members of the terrorist group” that it alleged was behind an attack on a military parade in Ahvaz, Iran, that killed 25 people. Tehran accused Ahwazi separatists, the Islamic State, Gulf states and the United States of being involved in that attack.
Rasmussen said while Copenhagen backed the Iran nuclear accord, which the United States has pulled out from in May, “it is absolutely crucial that the Iranians also understand that the deal cannot be a carte blanche for the kind of activities we have witnessed.”
Samuelsen said: “Denmark will now push for a discussion in the European Union on the need for further sanctions against Iran.”
The European Union said it would stand by Denmark in its spat with Iran. “We deplore any threat to EU security and take every incident extremely seriously and therefore we stand in solidarity with the member state,” said EU foreign policy spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic.
The United States also expressed support for Denmark. “We congratulate the government of Denmark on its arrest of an Iranian regime assassin. For nearly 40 years, Europe has been the target of Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks. We call on our allies and partners to confront the full range of Iran’s threats to peace and security,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter.
This is not the first time that Iran has been accused of seeking to assassinate opposition in Europe. France said Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence was behind a foiled bombing attack that targeted an Iranian opposition group near Paris in June.
Observers said any attacks would invite EU sanctions against individual Iranians and help the case for the United States to impose its second set of sanctions against Tehran on November 4, which the Europeans oppose.
“Sanctions could be done in a delicate way in which individuals are targeted rather than the country itself but this incident makes it harder for the EU and the E3 [Britain, France and Germany] to make their case to defend the deal,” Sanam Vakil, a fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, told the Washington Post. “It puts them into an uncomfortable position: They will have to put out a strong message to Iran whilst at the same time trying to keep the nuclear deal alive.”
Iran’s exiled opposition figures said they would not be intimidated by the alleged assassination threats.
“Iran has never stopped its plots against our Arab Ahwazi people and its activists, especially since our cause and the struggle of our people have now escalated considerably but certainly this will not discourage the movement of the struggle and the rest of our organisations from going forward to lift the injustice and oppression of our people and their right to self-determination,” Yaquob Hurr al-Tisteri, spokesman of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, told Al Arabiya English.
“The failed operation that was revealed… is a consistent Iranian approach towards the demands of our fair Ahwazi people and the demands of other non-Persian peoples and once again shows that the Iranian state has no solutions other than terrorism against just demands.”