EU’s condemnation of Iranian terrorism

If Europe is adopting clearer and firmer positions on Iran, it is because the behaviour of Iranian authorities on European soil was too glaring to be ignored.
Sunday 13/01/2019
Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen gives a press conference in Copenhagen. (Reuters)
Fresh sanctions. Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen gives a press conference in Copenhagen. (Reuters)

The European Union has decided to impose fresh sanctions against Iran over accusations of acts of terrorism including the assassination of two dissidents of Iranian descent in the Netherlands.

This is an unprecedented step by the 28-member community. It is the first time since 2015 that the European Union has enacted sanctions on Iran.

“EU just agreed to enact sanctions against an Iranian Intelligence Service for its assassination plots on European soil. Strong signal from the EU that we will not accept such behaviour in Europe,” Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen announced January 8.

The sanctions add designated Iranian officials to the European Union’s terrorist list, freezing their assets.

The sanctions target two Iranian officials specifically. Saeid Hashemi Moghadam, head of the directorate for internal security of the Ministry for intelligence as well as Iranian deputy minister and director general of intelligence, and Assadollah Asadi, a Vienna-based diplomat who is under arrest.

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok and Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren explained to parliament that the Dutch secret service “has strong indications that Iran was involved in the assassinations of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in Almere 2015 and in The Hague in 2017.”

The two victims have been identified as Ali Motamed, 56, who was killed in the central city of Almere in 2015, and Ahmad Molla Nissi, 52, who was slain in The Hague in 2017.

“The Netherlands considers it probable that Iran had a hand in the preparation or commissioning of assassinations and attacks on EU territory,” the ministers added.

If Europe is adopting clearer and firmer positions on Iran, it is because the behaviour of Iranian authorities on European soil was too glaring to be ignored. The misbehaviour has forced a response despite the European Union’s willingness to find compromises to circumvent the effect of US-imposed sanctions on Iran.

Even after European condemnation, Iran was blaming Europe. The sanctions, said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “will not absolve Europe of responsibility for harbouring terrorists.”

“Europeans, incl(uding) Denmark, Holland and France, harbour MEK,” he added, alluding to the exiled Iranian opposition group the People’s Mujahideen of Iran.

France had previously arrested two suspected Iranian agents over a plot to bomb an MEK conference near Paris in June.

Denmark accused Iran in October of planning to kill a member of an Ahvazi opposition group, which Tehran has blamed for a September 22 bomb attack in Ahvaz, Iran, that killed 25 people.

The EU sanctions come into the picture as Washington tries to reiterate its strong commitment to countering Iran after US President Donald Trump’s announcement of a sudden American exit from Syria. The announcement had created doubt about the US commitment to thwarting Iran’s designs in the region.

“You’ll see in the coming days and weeks we are redoubling all our diplomatic and commercial efforts to put real pressure on Iran,” declared US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a stopover in Amman.

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