Busted: Iranian diplomat who ferried bombs around Europe now goes to trial
In 2018, an Iranian diplomat left his post in Austria, returned to Iran, and flew a bomb back to Europe. After turning it over to two Iranian operatives in Luxembourg via Germany, he returned to Austria. As part of a coordinated intelligence operation among French, German, and Belgian services, the authorities ended up thwarting the plot by stopping these two Iranian operatives before reaching their destination, an Iranian opposition rally held in a Paris suburb. Their main target was the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Maryam Rajavi. The rally was also attended by prominent leaders from around the world, as well as tens of thousands of Iranians.
How did this on-duty diplomat end up being extradited to Belgium, where, after two years of investigation, the trial of Assadollah Asadi begins in November 2020? It is unprecedented because no on-duty Iranian diplomat had ever been charged with terrorist acts in the European Union. Asadi was the third counselor at Iran's embassy in Vienna.
Tehran repeatedly dismissed the charges against Asadi, calling them false accusations by the NCRI's political arm, the MEK. Their response stands in stark contrast to the evidence presented by the Belgian government against Asadi. Since his arrest, Asadi and his lawyer have declined to comment regarding the charges.
During a March 12, 2020 meeting with Belgian authorities, Asadi did lay out the Iranian regime's grievances against the MEK (the main force of the Iranian opposition against the mullahs' regime) before warning them of the possible consequences if he was found guilty.
"According to Assadollah Asadi, we [Belgium] do not realize what is going to happen, in the event of an unfavorable verdict," stated the minutes of that meeting. However, he gave no information about any specific organizations that might be involved.
"It is absolutely not a threat of retaliation, and if it's understood that way, it is a misinterpretation," said Dimitri de Beco, Asadi's lawyer, during an interview with Reuters. "He will explain the sense of his remarks to the court."
Asadi is just one example of how the Iranian regime uses diplomatic credentials to allow operatives to move throughout Europe and other countries. These operatives have carried out multiple assassinations and other terrorist acts as a larger part of Iranian foreign policy. Some of their work includes the assassination of four Kurdish dissidents in Germany and the assassination of Dr. Kazem Rajavi in Switzerland.
A study reveals no assassination in which the regime did not use diplomatic garb for its terrorist acts. The case of Mohammad Hussein Naqdi, assassinated in March 1993 in Rome, is another example. The Roman criminal court went through a complicated legal process before condemning the clerical regime.
The goal of these acts is to diminish the influence and power of the NCRI and MEK within the international community while rallying the Iranian people to the regime by focusing them on other military and political issues outside Iran.
Questions remain about why this plot against the NCRI coincided with the travel of the Iranian president, Rouhani, to Vienna and then Switzerland? It appears that this trip was meant to take political advantage of this terrorist plot had it been successful.
The Iranian government made multiple efforts to get Asadi released and sent back to Tehran, but its efforts have been unsuccessful to date.
Investigating Asadi's history with the regime clarifies that this is not his first time serving the regime by carrying out various terror plots, which have the backing of the Iranian government's highest levels. He has been part of the Ministry of Intelligence for decades, so being transferred into the diplomatic corps would not be unusual. Everyone knows that the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs worldwide, but particularly in Europe.
Asadi was in charge of all the terrorist projects of the Ministry of Intelligence in Europe. He remains the third secretary for the Iranian embassy in Vienna despite his arrest two years ago. Many argue that third secretaries are typically promoted after just a few years, so it is more likely that Asadi remains a third secretary to cover his other activities throughout Europe.
This terrorist plot had too many details that would have been impossible for Asadi to pull off without the Iranian regime's highest officials' knowledge. Why use a diplomat? Conclusion: There are legal and technical protections provided to diplomats that make it difficult for them to be arrested, making them perfect to use in various terror activities throughout Europe. However, Asadi was in Germany, and his diplomatic immunity did not extend outside is his assigned post in Vienna. Typically, diplomatic immunity is a critical part of operations for many Iranian operatives.
While no one is sure whether Asadi's trial will end with a guilty verdict, this case has exposed the ways that the Iranian regime is using its diplomats to act against opposition leaders in Europe. There are calls to close Iranian embassies in response to these revelations. However, to truly stop these attacks by the Iranian regime through its diplomatic corps, the international community needs to do more than close embassies. Nations need to stand up to the regime and hold it accountable by stopping their appeasement policies. Without a change internationally, the Iranian regime will continue its reign of terror through its diplomats.
Image credit: Twitter screen shot.