Rohani tells EU: If we go down, we will drag you with us!

Europeans may be better served protecting Iranian-European dual nationals, who have been targeted by Tehran’s intelligence agencies.
Sunday 16/12/2018
Iranian President Hassan Rohani speaks during a public  gathering in the northern city of Shahroud, December 4.                           (Iranian Presidency)
Warnings and threats. Iranian President Hassan Rohani speaks during a public gathering in the northern city of Shahroud, December 4. (Iranian Presidency)

Since its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s leadership has accused the United States of engaging in a ceaseless effort to overthrow the revolutionary regime in Tehran. The regime maintained those accusations even when Washington was engaged in defending it, as was the case under the Iran-Contra affair and the Reagan administration’s strategic opening towards Iran.

In recent months, however, accusations by the regime’s leaders may reflect their actual threat perception. They don’t just reflect the regime’s usual need for an external enemy to secure internal cohesion.

Addressing relatives of those killed in the war with Iraq, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned: “[The United States] is making a lot of noise but they are plotting. I’m urging the entire nation: Be vigilant. America is a wicked and cunning enemy.”

Khamenei delivered his address December 12, a few days after Iranian President Hassan Rohani’s indirect warning to the European Union. If we go down, Rohani said, we will drag you down with us. Rohani was addressing visiting parliamentary speakers from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey.

Rohani’s message was not delivered in those exact words but there is little doubt he shares Khamenei’s fear of Washington’s designs for Tehran and felt compelled to warn the Europeans against the prospect of regime collapse in Tehran.

There may be some truth in Rohani’s warning but European governments should probably ask whether the threats raised by the Iranian president have not already materialised during the past four decades of the Islamic Republic.

Let us examine Rohani’s exact words: “If we want to stop the flood of the refugees, we must hinge violence and war. If we desire to defeat terrorism, we should fight against dirty money. In such a struggle, we must defend each other’s governance so there is no more room for evil.”

More directly, Rohani said: “We are warning those who sanction us. If our ability to fight against narcotics and terrorism is weakened, you cannot escape intact from under the ruin of narcotics, refugees, bombs and terrorism. Many will not be safe if Iran is weakened by sanctions. Those who do not believe us are advised to look at an atlas.”

It would have been more accurate if Rohani had warned of an increased threat of narcotics trafficking, floods of refugees and terrorism in Europe because the Europeans already face all those threats,

Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, said 60% of Afghanistan’s opium is trafficked across Iran’s border and much of it is in transit to Europe. As for asylum seekers, the EU Asylum Office on December 11 said 3,170 Iranian nationals applied for asylum in the European Union in October, the highest number in more than two years. As for terrorism, the Europeans may be better served protecting Iranian-European dual nationals, who have been targeted by Tehran’s intelligence agencies. That should be the focus rather than fearing radical Islamists hiding among asylum seekers.

If Khamenei and Rohani truly desire to convince European leaders of the dire consequences of the collapse of the regime in Tehran, they should persuade the European Union of the regime’s usefulness by demonstrating the benefits of its survival.

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