A court in Belgium has convicted Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat based in Vienna, to 20 years in prison for his role in the thwarted 2018 bomb plot targeting an Iranian opposition group in France. The attempted attack was deemed an act of terror by the Belgian court. Multiple similar terrorist attacks have been undertaken targeting a number of European Union countries, which indicates that the Iranians have long been underestimating EU countries.
The controversial matter of rejoining the notorious nuclear deal is currently being discussed all over Europe and the US. EU officials are even talking about playing the role of the mediator between Iran and the US, completely dismissing Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and its known support for various terror organizations and militias, as if this matter is of no concern to this union and its officials. This sends a clear message indicating that even if countries like Iran continue to support terrorism, Europe will submit and be at their beck and call.
In an effort to tip the scales in its favor and gain more bargaining power in the negotiations process, the Iranian regime deliberately mobilized its affiliated terrorist forces and militias in the region. For instance, Houthi militias have been targeting civilians in Riyadh, the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Iranian militias in Iraq have made it their mission to impose their control over Iraq’s security as well as threaten the US’s presence in Iraq by intensifying their attacks and carrying out a series of continuous assassinations against the Iranian regime’s Iraqi opponents including officials, intellectuals and soldiers.
In Lebanon, Iran has resumed its brutal assassination efforts by eliminating Lokman Slim, a Lebanese author and vocal critic of Hezbollah. Such blatant acts of terror are aimed at curbing all attempts to reject Hezbollah’s grip over Lebanon or denounce the widespread corruption that runs rampant in Lebanon under the rule of this party and its allies within the ruling class.
Hezbollah’s growing list of assassinations can be traced back to the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri at the hands of Salim Ayyash, who was found guilty by an international court. That is also in addition to Hezbollah’s assassination of George Hawi, Gebran Tueni, Samir Kassir, François al-Hajj, Wissam Eid, Wissam al-Hassan, Mohammad Chatah and many others, not to mention the attempted assassination of journalist May Chidiac. This latest assassination of Lokman Slim is a clear declaration from Hezbollah that they are capable of eliminating whoever stands in their way, whenever they want.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen and its policies against the Yemeni people are even more brutal than Hezbollah. In terms of brutality and ruthlessness, when it comes to the atrocities the Houthis have committed, the students seem to have surpassed their masters. The Houthi militia has carried out an abundance of terrorist operations, assassinations, killings, bombings, famines, and a siege, in accordance with Iranian directives. By interfering in regional tensions, Iran seeks to expand its control and tighten its grip over a number of Arab countries in order to negotiate from a position of strength in the upcoming negotiations with the US and Europe.
It is safe to say that the sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump have significantly weakened the Iranian regime. Up until about a month ago, the Iranian regime was in a state of fear over the possibility of a US military strike. However, Iran now believes that this threat has abated, and that the new US administration can be intimidated by its provocations, and at the same time it assumes that the US is more willing to accept Iran’s terms and rapprochement attempts.
The statements released by the new US administration strongly denounce the latest targeting of Saudi Arabia by Iranian ballistic missiles and confirm the US’s commitment to cooperating with Saudi Arabia to ensure the region’s security and stability. This confirms Saudi Arabia’s highly regarded and undisputed position as a key player both regionally and internationally.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly affirmed that it is not entirely against the nuclear deal; however, the current deal is flawed and incomplete. Saudi Arabia made it clear that it will support any deal that guarantees preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, in addition to stressing the necessity of condemning all other hostile acts undertaken by the Iranian regime in the region, such as its interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries, development of ballistic missiles and its support for terrorism. Iran must make explicit statements ensuring its commitment to halting all its hostile policies, while acknowledging that any violations to this deal will be met with sanctions. Saudi Arabia is a country that supports stability and development, and it has vowed to stand firm against terrorism and expansionism.
In this context, Iran has escalated the rate of arrests and executions targeting Iranian citizens, some of whom have foreign nationalities. This confirms that Iran is resorting to heinous political and economic means, no matter how belligerent, to tip the negotiations in their favor. All of these actions cannot be denied or questioned since they are well documented and available for all to see, especially since the Iranian regime itself has been openly boasting about these acts.
Iran’s interventionist policies are the policies of a savage foreign colonialist that could not care less about the fate of the citizens of these Arab countries, and for that reason, it permits all the murderous and cruel policies against them, as seen in Iraq and Syria, as well as in Lebanon and Yemen. Iran continues to show no regard to the lives of the citizens of these countries, and what is truly baffling is how Iran’s supporters follow its lead even against their own people, but then again that is how the fifth column operates to undermine a nation’s solidarity from within.
Assassinations are a long-established policy adopted by brutal regimes throughout history; however, the Iranian regime in particular has relied on it heavily in a steady and continuous manner. European countries and the US are well aware of this fact, but they are yet to take any firm actions to deter the regime from these policies that are not in line with the twenty-first century, or international laws and treaties.
The Iranian regime’s association with terrorism, sabotage, and the spread of chaos and destruction is known to all, the difference lies in how this Iranian strategy is confronted. Will it be through confrontation, sanctions, and a firm united stance against the Iranian regime, or through submission, compliance, and acquiescence of any agreement no matter how flawed? There are a wide variety of options in between those two extremes, and any new deal or renewal of an old deal must be reviewed in light of the common regional goals and strategic visions.
Saudi Arabia, along with most Gulf and Arab countries, is a leader in supporting global political and economic stability at all levels. It is also a major player in all regional and international matters, and its role and importance cannot be dismissed in any way. Therefore, the statements released recently by US officials regarding the US’s commitment towards ensuring stability, fighting terrorism and strengthening relations with US allies are all in line with Saudi Arabia’s goals, and are a continuation of what has been in place for decades.
It is natural for countries within a political alliance to have differences, as no two countries’ policies are the same. These differences allow them to achieve their interests and remain flexible when taking into account the goals and objectives of other allies.The current disagreements among different allies regarding the best course of action in dealing with the danger of the Iranian regime is a living example of this.
Finally, it is important to note that any deal with Iran that does not take into account the interests of the countries within the region is doomed to fail just as its predecessors.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.