Sunday, April 18, 2021
HomeIran News NowConference Condemns “Appeasement” Behind Forthcoming EU-Iran Business Conference

Conference Condemns “Appeasement” Behind Forthcoming EU-Iran Business Conference

On Thursday, the International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ), a Brussels-based NGO focused on Iranian affairs, hosted an online conference to discuss the pending Europe-Iran Business Forum. That three-day virtual event is scheduled to take place over three days beginning on Monday. Iranian regime Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the European Union’s head of foreign policy, Josep Borrell will participate in the event.

Participants in the ISJ conference explicitly denounced Borrell’s decision to act as a keynote speaker alongside Zarif, whom they described as bearing responsibility for a bomb plot in 2018 which led to Europe’s first ever prosecution of an Iranian diplomat on terrorism charges. That diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, had been serving as the third counselor at the Iranian embassy in Vienna when he obtained highly explosive material in Iran and smuggled it into Europe on a commercial flight, using a diplomatic bag.

Assadi’s trial began in Antwerp last November following a two-year investigation, and various critics of the Iranian regime highlighted the proceedings as a source of additional justification for their demands for more assertive Western policies. Statements from the ISJ, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, and other such groups noted that Assadi had been acting on directions from high-ranking Iranian officials and that regardless of the outcome of his case, those officials would continue to pursue the same malign activities unless held to account by the international community.

Additional statements reiterated this point in the wake of Assadi’s February 4 conviction, while also expressing frustration with apparent silence and inaction on the part of key European leaders such as Borrell. A February 17 statement from ISJ said that “it is absolutely essential for the EU to take steps against the Iranian regime such as closing its embassies and making all future diplomatic relations contingent on Iran ending its terrorism on European soil.” It also warned against an impulse to return to “business-as-usual,” as demonstrated by plans for the Business Forum, which was announced just ahead of the statement’s release.

That statement bore the signature of ISJ director and former Vice President of the European Parliament Alejo Vidal-Quadras, as well as former Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi, former Scottish Member of the European Parliament Struan Stevenson, and former Portuguese MEP Paulo Casaca. These same four individuals took part in Thursday’s conference in order to reiterate and elaborate upon the content of the statement.

Their discussion prominently framed the Business Forum as part of a broader pattern of “appeasement,” which they blame for a pervasive sense of impunity among Iranian authorities. The consequences of that impunity allegedly include an unmitigated threat of foreign terrorism as well as a worsening trend of domestic repression in the wake of significant anti-government uprisings by the Iranian people.

Commenting in particular on the lack of action from the European External Action Service, Vidal-Quadras said that “blatant attempts to appease this terrorist regime are a disgrace and place EU citizens at risk from future attacks.”

“I can only think of two things, either Mr. Borrell is out of his wits or there are hidden and not colorable reasons to have this forum…The conference should be canceled right now… If the answer of Borrell and the European council to this foiled attack is to have a business conference with the regime, the regime will conclude that they can organize another attack bigger than the previous one…What Borrell is doing deserve a motion of reprobation. He’s putting us in a dangerous situation and must be expelled from this responsibility,” Vidal said in his speech.

Hermann Tertsch, a sitting member of the European Parliament was the first speaker of the conference. “We can’t take this as business as usual. It is really appalling to see our high representative of 27 democratic countries paying tribute to a regime which killed over 1500 people in the streets,” Mr. Tertsch said adding, “The situation is very clear and Josep Borrell knows this situation. Josep Borrell is undermining and compromising the EU’s safety by participating and holding this forum. For us it is not just a moral duty to denounce the Iranian regime, it is also a practical and political duty…”

Giulio Terzi, former Italian Foreign Minister was another speaker of the online conference.

“This business forum is taking place if nothing has happened, while we know there was a very important decision in Antwerp court giving a jail sentence of 20 years to Assadi,” Terzi said adding: “Borrell is promoting the No. 1 state terrorist in the world because Iran and its proxies are using terrorism as its main tool for its action and influence…We should deter the No. 1 state terrorist in the world, and Borrell is exactly doing the contrary. It is much worse than appeasement policy. Borrell is not just appeasing the regime, but he is surrendering to the Iranian regime and this has consequences on the JCPOA issue… By making concessions, they allow Iran to go on in its nuclear quest. Stop business forum with Iran regime! This is a scandal of a surrendering philosophy and political incorrectness.”

In his speech, Paulo Casaca1 former member of the European Parliament said: “High commissioner Borrell is acting against the law and the most certain principles of the EU. The EP must stop him immediately from using taxpayers’ funds for this criminal activity…Mr. Borrell is using the taxpayers’ funds to finance the propaganda of a minister that said Assadi had diplomatic immunity. He was mandated to commit the terrorist attack.”

Struan Stevenson who was also chairing the conference said: “Bomb attacks and assassinations are being planned right now across Europe supervised and directed by Iran, but Josep Borrell wishes to ignore terrorist bomb plot that could have killed 100s on EU soil. He’s intent on business-as-usual with the Iran regime and invited Zarif, to participate in Europe-Iran business forum,”

In his closing remarks, Stevenson said: “Suggestion of Mr. Borrell, instead of the 3-day business forum with the Iranian regime why not hold a 3-day conference to highlight the oppression, rampant human rights abuse, the escalation of No. of executions taking place in Iran. Why not hold a 3-day discussion on the massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in Iran in 1988, why not discuss the 1500 unarmed protesters who were gun downed by the IRGC in the nationwide uprising? Why not hold a 3-day conference to discuss the mullah’s aggressive warmongering in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon,”

And finally, he concluded the conference by saying: “Mr. Borrell if you allow this business forum to go ahead you will be sending the clearest possible signal to the fascist regime in Iran that as far as Europe is concerned trade matters more than human rights. Terrorism and brutality can be ignored, so long as EU businesses can make money. EU jobs mean more than Iranian lives.”

For critics of existing EU policies, the severity of the regime’s threat is very easily recognized as grounds for political retaliation. Even prior to Assadi’s conviction, statements on the topic emphasized the counterproductive effect of maintaining status quo relations with Iran under these circumstances, either in the dimension of trade or that of diplomacy. One of them addressed to the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and signed by dozens of MEPs, demanded that the EU make “any economic and trade relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran contingent on the improvement of the human rights situation in Iran and an end to the regime’s terrorism on European soil.”

At the time, the statement’s signatories may have had some confidence that their recommendations would receive suitable attention from EU officials. After all, little more than a month earlier, Borrell and others had seemingly demonstrated an interest in using trade relations as a source of leverage over human rights issues, in that they had canceled their participation in the Europe-Iran Business Forum ahead of its previous start date.

Those cancellations and the resulting postponement of the entire event were brought on by news that the Iranian regime had executed an opposition journalist named Ruhollah Zam, roughly a year after luring him from France to Iraq and then kidnapping him as part of a sting operation.

Close observers of Iranian affairs are quick to point out that regardless of the international response, there is hardly a day when such an event would not be in close proximity to serious human rights violations or acts of political violence by the Iranian regime. As well as condemning the Business Forum in general terms, Thursday’s conference served to focus attention upon several disturbing developments that emerged from the Iranian regime in the immediate run-up to that event.

In the first two weeks of 2021, the Iranian judiciary apparently carried out more than 60 executions, including political prisoners. And exactly one week ahead of the Business Forum, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps opened fire on crowds of protesters in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, killing several dozen and wounding upwards of 100.