Iran’s plots in Europe
Iranian President Hassan Rohani has warned the Iranian public of more hardship to come. “The situation was hard for people in the recent months and it may be hard in the next several months, too,” he said during a televised cabinet meeting.
The US administration’s new wave of sanctions, targeting the Iranian oil sector, is one of the factors that can make Rohani’s predictions come true.
You would think Iran’s rulers would have figured out a basic fact: They cannot afford strained relations with any part of the world, much less Europe, because that would make Iran’s international isolation worse.
Instead, Tehran is continuing its terror plots against members of the Iranian opposition on European soil.
After the foiled bombing plot against an Iranian opposition gathering in June, Denmark announced it had aborted an Iranian covert operation to assassinate dissidents.
Danish security officials said a Norwegian national of Iranian origin was arrested October 21 on suspicion of involvement in an assassination plot against members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA). He was arrested near Copenhagen.
The plot seems to have been meant to retaliate against the ASMLA movement for the September 22 attack on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz. This though it was the Islamic State that claimed responsibility for the terrorist shooting and not the Ahvazis.
In the case of Iran’s Ahvaz region, plots against opposition activists abroad are being coupled with sweeping arrests at home.
“The scale of arrests in recent weeks is deeply alarming,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “The timing suggests that the Iranian authorities are using the attack in Ahvaz as an excuse to lash out against members of the Ahvazi Arab ethnic minority, including civil society and political activists, in order to crush dissent in Khuzestan province.”
Amnesty International cites Ahvazi activists as saying up to 600 people may have been detained and adds that the indiscriminate crackdown is creating a climate of fear among ethnic Arabs.
Such measures will only fuel tensions between the central government in Tehran and Iranian minorities on the periphery.
In addition, there are fears that the coming weeks will witness increasing and indiscriminate repression of ordinary Iranians, especially the poor, as they are likely to feel the brunt of the country’s economic crisis made worse by US sanctions.
Recent demonstrations in Iran have shown the destabilising effect of the serious crisis caused by a multitude of factors besides the sanctions, including economic mismanagement, falling oil exports, widespread corruption and the squandering of financial resources on military adventures in the region.
Against this precarious domestic background, Tehran is not behaving in a way that ensures the support of European nations in the face of US sanctions.
As reflected by its worrisome involvement in recent terror plots, the Iranian government does not seem to worry too much about European countries’ sovereignty, human rights or international law.
“They feel the constraints on them have been removed,” said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former US official.
Denmark, which has been playing a key role in Europe to safeguard the Iran nuclear deal, will be hard pressed to ask the European Union for tougher measures against Tehran.
As Sanam Vakil, a fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, told the Washington Post, the latest plot in Denmark “makes it harder for the EU and the E3 [Britain, France and Germany] to make their case to defend the deal.”
Denmark’s reaction has been very restrained with Prime Minister Lars Lokke politely describing the alleged plot as “totally unacceptable.”
The European Union’s reactions overall have been measured if not plain contrite.
“We deplore any threat to EU security and take every incident extremely seriously and therefore we stand in solidarity with the member state concerned, in this case, Denmark,” said Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the European Commission.
Considering its reckless record, Tehran is likely to wrongly interpret Europe’s restrained reaction as an invitation to pursue its provocations towards European capitals and the rest of the international community.