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Belgium Is a Litmus Test in the West’s Stand Against Iran’s Terrorism

The mullahs’ regime ruling Iran is on the verge of finalizing a behind-the-curtain deal with the Belgian government in order to have its diplomat-terrorist Assaddollah Assadi released from prison and returned to Iran. Assadi was convicted for masterminding a bomb plot targeting a 2018 rally in support of the Iranian opposition coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), near Paris, which tens of thousands of people and hundreds of lawmakers, current and former senior government officials, and political dignitaries from across the globe attended. Fortunately, the attack was foiled by European authorities, leading to the arrest, conviction, and imprisonment of Assadi and his three accomplices. Assadi’s release would be a new low in the history of appeasement vis-à-vis dictatorships by western governments.

A disgraceful deal that was kept secret until the last minute

On March 11, Gholam-Hossein Dehghani, the Iranian regime’s ambassador in Belgium and the European Parliament signed an agreement with Belgian judicial authorities for the release of Assadi and other convicted criminals. In exchange, Tehran would release Belgian nationals or dual nationals taken hostage by the mullahs’ security and intelligence apparatus back in Iran, and condemned to prison, or even death, based on bogus accusations. This deal, kept a secret until June 30, calls for the release of condemned individuals between Belgium and the Iranian regime to then spend the rest of their prison sentences in their own countries.

This is an utter insult to the conscience and understanding of people across the globe, and especially the Iranian people, to have a terrorist mastermind of the mullahs’ regime spend the rest of his remaining 16 years of jail time among the very individuals who ordered him to carry out the terrorist bombing in 2018.

However, what has been important and decisive since June 30 when news of this secret deal broke out is the global campaign launched against this abhorrent political agreement between the terrorist dictatorship in Tehran and Brussels, which is considered the political capital of modern Europe. The NCRI and its supporters across the globe have been spearheading this campaign in every stage possible.

International outrage at appeasing the regime

Members of the Belgian Parliament, along with many of their colleagues in the European Parliament, and a long list of American and European dignitaries have been raising their voices against this unjust initiative and pressuring the Belgian government to bring an end to this deal. NCRI supporters have also been holding numerous demonstrations outside Belgian embassies in different countries, parallel to launching legal, political, and media campaigns in every country possible.

In a statement, dozens of UK lawmakers warned, “[R]eleasing Assadi under any pretext will be a major blow to the efforts to combat and counter Iran’s state terrorism on European soil and undermine the counterterrorism cooperation which led to Assadi’s arrest and conviction… The regime in Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and is known to misuse its diplomats, embassies, and diplomatic missions to facilitate and carry out acts of terrorism, as proven by the conviction of Assadi.”

In another statement, the nonprofit organization “Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI), warned, “Allowing Assadi to serve the remainder of his 20-year sentence in Iran, the state which was responsible for the attempted terrorist bombing, would make a mockery of the rule of law and foster further impunity for the Iranian government and its officials involved in terrorism and crimes against humanity.”

JVMI also warned that the draft agreement includes an article that states, “Each Party may grant pardon, amnesty or commutation of the sentence in accordance with its Constitution or other laws.”

That article would effectively allow the Iranian government to grant a pardon to Assadi the moment he arrives in Iran.

The International Committee in Search of Justice stressed the role of the highest levels of power in Iran in orchestrating this attack. In its statement, the ISJ warned, “There is no doubt that Assadi’s terrorist plot was ordered from the highest echelons of the regime, including the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the president at that time Hassan Rouhani, and the then Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. The EU should have demanded they be held to account. There is also no doubt that if these prisoners are allowed to return to Iran, they will never be asked to serve prison sentences in that country. Indeed, they will be treated as heroes and possibly promoted. Their release from prison in Belgium would make a complete mockery of justice and send the clearest signal to the Iranian regime that they can conduct terrorist attacks in Europe with impunity. Indeed, they may even be encouraged to take further European hostages to hold as bargaining chips for future prisoner exchanges.”

John Bercow, the Speaker of the British House of Commons for 10 years, until 2019, wrote to the Belgian Parliament President Éliane Tillieux, “This treaty is flawed in its foundations. First, it helps Assadi and his three accomplices, who should rot in a Belgian jail for the heinous conspiracy they hatched, to escape justice and accountability. Second, this ill-advised initiative makes it clear that the ruling theocracy in Iran can get away with terrorist murder. What guarantees are there that the mullahs would not again send their hit squads to Europe to engage in terrorism and target dissidents, as they have done with impunity in the past four decades? Third, how can one even contemplate the idea that the very state which commissioned Assadi and his co-terrorists to plant the bomb, would keep them incarcerated once they are repatriated? Such a presumption is not only naïve but an insult to our intellect. There is no question in my mind that they would be given a hero’s welcome. As is clear from court documents, this was an act of state-sponsored terror decided at the most senior echelons of the Iranian regime and not the personal initiative of a few rogue individuals. Fourth, this treaty and its subsequent passage, which I strongly advise you to oppose, set a dangerous precedent elsewhere in Europe, as other nations whose citizens are being held hostage by Tehran may attempt to strike similar deals. You concur, I hope, that such a development would make Europe a roaming ground for terrorist hit-squads sent by Tehran, and threaten not only the security of Europe but also the lives and liberties of Iranian refugees on Europe’s soil.”

Dozens of similar statements were issued by human rights groups, associations of the Iranian diaspora, lawmakers, and politicians who are genuinely alarmed at the repercussions of returning Assadi to Tehran.

At the same time, supporters of the Iranian Resistance have been holding protest rallies in dozens of cities across the world, demanding the Belgium government cancel this disgraceful deal.

The consequences of appeasement

The objective of this massive initiative is to warn nations of the world and government officials in various countries about the dangers of succumbing to such deals with the mullahs’ regime. Tehran would consider this as yet another green light to verge upon even more terrorist plots and crimes the world over.

Appeasement emboldens dictators, especially today’s terrorist dictatorship ruling Iran. The only language such despotic states understand is one of strong tone, determination, and the will to back it up with defining measures.

If the international community intends to bring an end to global terrorism, it needs to adopt a strong policy in the face of the world’s central banker of international terrorism, the mullahs’ regime ruling Iran.

Chamberlain adopted appeasement in the face of Hitler, leading to World War II. More recently, the West refused to adopt a strong policy in the face of Putin, leading to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Tehran’s mullahs have been watching closely, banking on the West’s decades-long policy of appeasement and wreaking havoc across the Middle East and beyond, and taking Western nationals hostage to swap for its convicted terrorists.

The time is now to end this cycle of appeasement and terrorism. The West needs to stand firm in the face of dictators.