The West's policy must focus on Iran's terrorism
Because the Iranian regime's threat of terrorism against Western interests has dramatically increased, we should not allow the entire debate on the Iranian threat to be eclipsed by the nuclear issue. The West's policy should put a healthy degree of focus on Tehran's terrorism, which by all accounts is becoming more dangerous and unruly.
In the most infamous example, in June 2018, Tehran tried to bomb an international gathering near Paris, France. The plot was foiled at the last minute, but it was a daring attempt that was different from previous ones.
Tehran has conducted numerous foreign terrorist acts in the past. Thirty-seven years ago this month, in fact, its agents drove a truck carrying 2,000 pounds of explosives into an American Marine compound in Beirut, Lebanon. Two hundred forty-one U.S. service personnel were killed. The judiciary identified the Iranian regime as the guilty party and ordered it to pay compensation through multiple court cases.
The rubble of the Beirut Marine barracks (YouTube screen grab).
But, politically, close to nothing was done to hold the regime accountable. Naturally, regime officials were emboldened. In July 1987, the then–minister of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), Mohsen Rafiqdoost, had the audacity to boast: "Both the TNT and the ideology which in one blast sent to hell 400 officers, NCOs, and soldiers at the (U.S.) Marines headquarters were provided by Iran."
The June 2018 terrorist plot had some major discontinuities compared to previous plots. First of all, the domestic context is different, and the regime is carrying out such operations out of extreme fear and vulnerability in the face of growing protests.
Secondly, the event that was targeted had in attendance tens of thousands of civilians and hundreds of high-profile Western lawmakers and former officials from the U.S., Europe, and Arab countries. And, third, the regime used an official diplomat, not a low-ranking intelligence operative or terrorist agent.
The last point is perhaps the most important politically. On November 27, that sitting diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, will go on trial in Belgium. That marks the first time in modern history that an active diplomat is being tried for terrorism in Europe. Reportedly, Assadi had personally hand-delivered a high explosive and a detonator to two of his agents to blow up a major international gathering of the main opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), near Paris.
During his interrogation, much like Rafiqdoost, Assadi reportedly had the audacity to threaten Europe with more terrorist acts if the courts convict him.
What does all this mean? When faced with appeasement and inaction by the West, the Iranian regime becomes more emboldened. Every time the regime has conducted terrorist acts, it seems to have done so with iron impunity. The West has done little or nothing to counteract it.
So what should be done with regard to the latest example of the regime's 2018 bomb plot in France?
First, it is important to understand that the regime is exceptionally terrified of popular uprisings like the November 2019 protests that saw an enormous groundswell of public anger toward its corruption and destructive policies.
As a result, Tehran has become increasingly terrified and violent. In a harrowing episode, it killed 1,500 protesters in November 2019 in a little more than a week and arrested and tortured thousands more.
This fear of being overthrown is most likely what drove it to attempt to kill or harm tens of thousands of opponents and their international supporters in Paris in 2018.
In addition, it is important to understand that in trying to respond to a more aggressive and fearful regime, Europe now stands at a crossroads. It can either continue the same unproductive policies or avoid innocent deaths on its soil by adopting a firm policy vis-à-vis Tehran's terrorists.
Judicially, the Assadi case is clear. The courts will in all likelihood prosecute not just the agent, Assadi, but the state itself, as the oppositional group's lawyers and high-profile civil complainants stressed during a virtual conference on the matter on October 22 in Brussels, Belgium. There is plenty of evidence that the order was given by the highest authorities through the Supreme National Security Council.
But a judicial prosecution is simply not enough, as the Beirut bombing showed us. The more impactful response lies in the political stance.
Is Europe prepared to adopt meaningful political measures that send a rational message to Tehran — that acts of terrorism on its soil will not be tolerated? If so, then it should perhaps heed the advice of the oppositional group's president-elect, Maryam Rajavi, which was outlined during the Brussels conference: blacklist the regime's Ministry of Intelligence and the IRGC, both of which are responsible for numerous acts of terror in Europe. Prosecute and expel agents of the MOIS and the Quds Force. And shut down the regime's embassies and so-called religious outfits, which serve as logistical hubs for Tehran's terrorism.
A lot hangs in the balance. If Europe were to shirk its historical responsibility, it would do a great disservice to its citizens and to the stability and security of the region and the broader international community.