Pressure increasing on Iran after Paris bomb plot revelations
LONDON - Pressure is increasing on Tehran after Germany officially charged Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi with activity as a foreign agent and conspiracy to commit murder.
Assadi, who has been a Vienna-based diplomat for Iran since 2014, is suspected of being at the heart of a complex terrorist plot to target an Iranian opposition rally organised by the National Council of Resistance of Iran on the outskirts of Paris on June 30.
The Iranian diplomat is accused of commissioning an Antwerp-based couple of Iranian descent to attack the rally, including providing them with explosives. The husband-and-wife team was arrested in Brussels on the day of the rally by Belgian security services in possession of 500 grams of a homemade explosive and a detonation device.
A fourth suspect, arrested in Paris as an alleged accomplice of the Iranian couple, has been extradited to Belgium where authorities are leading the investigation into the Paris bomb plot.
German prosecutors accuse Assadi of being a member of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security whose tasks include “the intensive observation and combating of opposition groups inside and outside of Iran.” Germany remanded Assadi, stripped by Austria of his diplomatic immunity, in custody on July 11 and it is believed he will be extradited to Belgium to face charges.
The furore over the alleged plot came as Iranian President Hassan Rohani visited European capitals seeking support for the Iran nuclear deal following Washington’s withdrawal.
At a key meeting with the remaining signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), British, French, German, Chinese, Russian and EU officials agreed to continue to talk on how to save the deal but came up with no concrete measures.
The United States sought to use the suspected bomb plot to justify its withdrawal from the JCPOA. A US State Department official said the Paris bomb plot “exemplified” the threat represented by Tehran.
“The United States is urging all nations to carefully examine diplomats in Iranian embassies to ensure their countries’ own security,” the unidentified senior US State Department official said July 10 following a meeting with Saudi officials to coordinate plans on how Riyadh and Washington could increase pressure on Iran.
“If Iran can plot bomb attacks in Paris, [it] can plot attacks anywhere in the world and we urge all nations to be vigilant about Iran. The most recent plot… is another chapter in a long history that dates back to 1984,” the official added.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, known as a hardliner on Iran, also referenced the Paris bomb plot during a visit to the United Arab Emirates.
“The one [subject] that we are most focused on today is… that we deny Iran the financial capacity to continue this bad behaviour,” he said. “So it’s a broad range, a series of sanctions aimed not at the Iranian people but rather aimed at the single mission of convincing the Iranian regime that its malign behaviour is unacceptable and has a real high cost for them.”
Following the revelation of the suspected Paris bomb plot, the hashtag #ExpelIranDiplomatTerrorists trended on Twitter and demonstrators gathered in front of the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, calling on the government to authorise Assadi’s extradition to Belgium as soon as possible.
Observers said that Tehran attempting such an outlandish terrorist plot on foreign soil at the time it was seeking to convince European allies to support the JCPOA could indicate that the stress is beginning to tell on the Iranian regime.
“Such a desperate act may point to a greater weakness in the hold that the regime has on power than we otherwise understand. It is possible that the regime is more brittle than we understand and that talk among dissidents is actually dangerous to their otherwise precarious position,” former US Representative Michael Flanagan wrote for Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya website.
MEP Anders Vistisen, a representative of the Danish People’s Party, also spoke out against Tehran, posting on Twitter: “Iran’s behaviour and support for terrorism is unacceptable. EU needs to end appeasement policy: Iran is a threat to EU and Mideast stability and security.”