The Iranian regime’s parliament approved all but one of Ebrahim Raisi’s proposed ministers. It was expected that the parliament will act as a rubber-stamp for Raisi and, by extension, for his master, the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has handpicked both the parliament and Raisi’s ministers.
Several of the appointees are prominent members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the regime’s terrorist entity that is responsible for much of the regime’s crackdown on domestic dissent, as well as its support for terrorist proxies throughout the region and the world. The prospective Interior Minister, Ahmad Vahidi, is even subject to an Interpol arrest warrant stemming from his involvement in the 1994 bombing in Argentine.
While having a figure like Vahidi as the Interior Minister means explicit support of terrorism, it should be recalled that terrorism is an inseparable part of the regime.
While the regime’s apologists tried to present the previous government as moderates, that dialogue ultimately served to mask the regime’s malign activities
The regime’s previous president, Hassan Rouhani himself confirmed that the regime’s terrorism and diplomacy go hand in hand. In a meeting last April, he praised the collaboration between the regime’s diplomatic and military personnel. “The frontline and diplomacy are two arms” of the same strategy, he said after boasting of his own contribution to both sides of this duality. “I am speaking as someone who has been in the Supreme National Security Council for 32 years,” he said.
In 2018, Rouhani’s role in the SNSC was highlighted following a thwarted Iranian terror attack on a gathering of the Iranian Resistance in France. The event, organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, was identified as a high-value target by the regime’s intelligence in the wake of a nationwide uprising at the beginning of the year, and an Iranian diplomat-terrorist named Assadollah Assadi was tasked with recruiting expatriate operatives to infiltrate it with explosives.
Two of Assadi’s co-conspirators were arrested before carrying those explosives from Belgium into France, and he himself was also arrested a day after the operation was meant to take place. They and a fourth co-conspirator were finally convicted and sentenced to prison in Belgium early this year, thereby bringing renewed attention to the regime’s reliance on terrorism as a form of statecraft.
Rouhani’s successor to spearhead even more of this sort of activity, especially in the wake of his appointing notorious human rights abusers and terrorist operatives as his closest advisors. Ebrahim Raisi himself has a particularly shocking history of such abuses, has been one of four members of the Tehran “death commission” that led the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988. Although his subsequent contributions to hardline policy largely continued to focus on domestic repression, in recent years he was appointed by Khamenei to head the Astan-e Quds Razavi foundation, an entity that routinely provides financing to Islamic terrorists groups and operations.
That role placed Raisi in close contact with the main conduits for Tehran’s logistical support of those entities, and this, in turn, may have influenced his choice of cabinet appointees. As far as Iran’s foreign policy and approach to Western interests are concerned, the most important of these appointees is, of course, the Foreign Minister. That office is now occupied by Hossein Amir Abdollahian, whose supposed diplomatic credentials were secured through his service as a deputy minister under Zarif, but whose commitment to terrorism was made clear by decades of service to the IRGC’s foreign special operations division, the Quds Force.
In his own remarks concerning his confirmation, Abdollahian boasted to the Iranian parliament on Sunday about having “cooperated with Soleimani in the foreign policy domain.” Qassem Soleimani was the head of the Quds Force and Iran’s top terrorist operative until he was killed in a January 2020 US drone strike in Iraq, which was motivated by imminent threats of militant attacks on American personnel and US allies. It was, without question, these sorts of attacks that Abdollahian had in mind when he promised the parliament that he would use the Foreign Ministry to “continue Soleimani’s path.”
Such transparently threatening rhetoric would be cause for alarm under any circumstances. But it is made much more alarming by the fact that it stands in contrast to the comparatively silent threats and smiling diplomacy of the Rouhani administration, which nonetheless oversaw an attempted bombing that might have become the worst Iranian terrorist attack on European soil.
Had it not been thwarted, the 2018 bomb plot would have certainly claimed hundreds if not thousands of lives. Furthermore, the victims would have most likely included not just Iranian dissidents but also any number of the European and American dignitaries who attended the rally and conference in order to demonstrate that they understand the threat that the clerical regime poses, regardless of who holds the office of president or controls the various government ministries.
Now Tehran can be expected to exhibit the same aggression both at home and abroad, in the years ahead as it did in the final years of the Rouhani administration. It can also be expected to do so in absence of the diplomatic cover provided by the likes of Javad Zarif.
The international community will have a much more difficult time engaging in normal dialogue with a government led by figures who are under warrant from Interpol, or committed to “following the path” of Iran’s greatest terrorist, or credibly implicated in the massacre of 30,000 Iranian dissidents. In the face of that leadership, Western policies toward Tehran will have to treat the regime as it is, not as naïve lawmakers would like it to be.