Last month, Iran’s main opposition the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held its biggest rally in suburban Paris. The colorful event was in many ways different from preceding years as Iran continues to boil in dissent and protests spreading in far corners of the nation.
Maryam Rajavi, President of the NCRI in her address said: “A passionate generation thirsty for freedom has risen to take over the entire country and take back Iran from the occupiers. This is the Iranian nation’s fight. The regime’s overthrow is inevitable.”
The Washington Times called it “a large, boisterous rally.” Many former and present officials of countries from around the globe participated and delivered a collective message of support for Iranian people and their struggle for a better life.
They also voiced their support for the vibrant alternative to the regime in Tehran; the NCRI. The meeting was addressed by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Republican grandee Newt Gingrich, and other senior Western officials.
In the past seven months, following the first spark of new round of protests in Iran in late last year and early this year, Iran has been on the edge. In a domino effect, cities in Iran from Mashhad in the northwest, where the first protests started, got engulfed by calls for freedom.
The protests have mushroomed in over 143 cities despite the most aggressive security measures adopted by the regime. The participants in the protests gatherings across Iran chanted slogans unheard of in the past. “Clerics shame on you, leave our country alone,” or “Death to Khamenei, Death to Rouhani,” and “Reformists, conservatives, the game is over.”
Saeed Hajjarian an architect of Iran’s Ministry of Inelegance and Security (MIOS) recently had this to say about Iran’s uprisings: “We no longer have an internal feud among ourselves. The real challenge today is with those determined to bring down the entire system.” A political storm seems to be underway in Iran and it was time for the same to reverberate in the rally in Paris.
Even as the rally unfolded, a terrorist plot intending to target it was foiled by security forces in France with the help of their German and Belgian partners. Timing of the plot was significant because Hassan Rouhani was scheduled to visit Austria the next day.
Assadollah Assadi masterminded the plot while under diplomatic immunity from Austrian government. He was stationed in Vienna. Assadi was caught red-handed when he was giving the explosives and detonator to a sleeping cell, an Iranian born Belgian couple to carry out the attack.
To put some flesh on the bones, the Iranian regime’s history is marred by terrorism and hostage taking for political gains. It all began with taking American diplomats hostage for 444 days in Tehran in late 70s.
Attacks on EU soil
This is not the first plot of its kind on the European soil. On April 24, 1990, Kazem Rajavi was gunned down in broad daylight by several agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security of Iran as he was driving to his home in Coppet, a village near Geneva.
He was Iran’s first Ambassador to the United Nations headquarters in Geneva following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Shortly after his appointment, he resigned his post in protest to the “repressive policies and terrorist activities of the ruling clerics in Iran”.
Mykonos restaurant in Berlin where four Kurdish-Iranian leaders were assassinated by the Quds Force Special units in 1992 was another notorious terror attack on European soil.
Referring to Assadollah Assadi arrest in Germany, a US official said that “the administration takes the arrest of the diplomat “very seriously” and sees it as evidence that Iran is using diplomatic compounds in Europe and elsewhere as cover to plot terrorist attacks.
The official dismissed Iranian suggestions that it was a “false flag” operation intended to falsely accused Iran of terrorism. The same US official also said: “If Iran can plot bomb attacks in Paris, they can plot attacks anywhere in the world, and we urge all nations to be vigilant about Iran using embassies as diplomatic cover to plot terrorist attacks.”
Speaking on background to reporters flying with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from Abu Dhabi to Brussels, the official dismissed as “ludicrous” the regime’s claim that the exiled opposition group, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)/People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (MEK), was behind the plan to bomb its own event.
Iran’s neighbors be it Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Bahrain and by extension Yemen, Syria and Lebanon have been the first victims of terrorist attacks of theocratic regime in Tehran since 1979 revolution. Since December, the Iranian regime put blame on the NCRI and MEK for their role in leading the protests inside the country.
Plotting a major terrorist attack on European soil has no doubt the blessings of both Ali Khamenei and Rouhani. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. The Iranian regime took a high risk in losing so little left of international credibly it might have had in the eyes of the world and failed miserably.
The best EU can do now is to implement its own decision adopted by the Council of Europe on April 29th 1997. It required expelling all the Iranian regime’s mercenaries and intelligence and security agents from European Union member states and barring them from entering the EU again. It is time to show the rulers in Tehran that enough is enough.
Reza Shafiee is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). He tweets @shafiee_shafiee.