By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Europeans officials have foiled a terrorist attack targeting a large convention in Paris called “Free Iran,” which I attended. An Iranian diplomat and several other individuals of Iranian origin were arrested in France, Belgium and Germany on Monday. This is the first time that an Iranian official has been arrested for such a blatant act related to orchestrating a terrorist attack.
Why would Iran get engaged in such activity? Most likely, from the Iranian regime’s perspective, such a large-scale terror attack would have eliminated many of the regime’s opponents once and for all, if it had proceeded according to plan. After all, the regime was successful in holding onto power after Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1988 fatwa “led to the killing of 30,000” people who opposed it, according to his former deputy Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri.
Tens of thousands of dissidents and human rights defenders attended the Free Iran convention. Many European, American and Middle Eastern leaders and influential people were there, including former US House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, French-Colombian politician and ex-senator Ingrid Betancourt, US author and chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity Linda Chavez, and Italy’s former Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata.
Without a doubt, Iran is now going to use its highly bogus diplomatic skills and smiles to divert attention from this heinous act. Iran’s technocrat foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, has already dismissed the issue, stating on Twitter: “How convenient: Just as we embark on a presidential visit to Europe, an alleged Iranian operation and its ‘plotters’ arrested. Iran unequivocally condemns all violence & terror anywhere, and is ready to work with all concerned to uncover what is a sinister false flag ploy.”
But it is also important to point out that this terrorist plot ought not to come as a surprise. The Iranian regime is listed as the top state sponsor of terrorism. Its ties to extremist and terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda are well substantiated. Robust evidence, including a US federal court ruling, found “Iran furnished material and direct support for the 9/11 terrorists.” Eight of the hijackers passed through Iran before heading to the US.
Iran also provided funds, logistical support and ammunition to Al-Qaeda leaders, sheltering several of them in exchange for attacks on US interests. The Iranian regime continued to support Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other countries with the goal of pushing out forces that are rivals to Tehran. The existence of this alliance clearly explains why Al-Qaeda has never attacked Iran.
The Iranian regime also attempted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US with a bomb at a well-known restaurant in Washington in 2011.
Without a doubt, Iran is now going to use its highly bogus diplomatic skills and smiles to divert attention from this heinous act
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Many people have been killed by the Iranian regime in terrorist attacks. Examples of such destructive behavior include the 1983 suicide bombing in Lebanon that killed 241 American servicemen (220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers); the Khobar Towers bombing of 1996; and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, with the direct support and involvement of Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda.
The other issue to pay attention to is linked to the arrested Iranian diplomat, who was residing in a foreign embassy and had been enjoying diplomatic immunity. His involvement in the foiled terrorist attack must be considered to be so grave that the Austrian Foreign Ministry gave the Iranian regime an ultimatum and pointed out: “The Iranian diplomat will be denied diplomatic status within 48 hours because of the existence of a European arrest warrant.”
The international community should be aware that it is believed the Iranian regime uses its embassies and consulates in foreign countries as cells to promote extremism and support militias and proxies. For example, an Iranian ambassador and 14 other diplomats were expelled from Kuwait last year over links to a “spy and terror” cell. Iran’s cultural and military missions were also ordered to shut down.
This highlights the fact that Iran does not respect international standards of diplomacy. Instead it exploits the trust of other governments to advance its revolutionary and hegemonic ambitions.
Finally, the foiled terrorist plot comes at a time when the Iranian regime is feeling significant pressure inside the country. Many Iranians have been protesting — they are angry and frustrated with the regime for many reasons, including for squandering billions of dollars on Bashar Assad, as well as terrorist and militia groups in the region. People have been chanting “Death to Hezbollah,” “Leave Syria alone, think about us instead,” “Death to Rouhani,” “Shame on you Khamenei, step down from power,” “Death to the dictator,” and “Death to the Islamic Republic.”
In conclusion, the Iranian regime has been involved in terrorist activities since its establishment in 1979. It is time for the international community, particularly the European Union, to join many Iranian people and hold the regime accountable for its terrorist activities and human rights violations. Appeasement policies with the Islamic Republic ought to be stopped.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
This article was first published by arabnews