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British Conference To Echo Several Recent Calls for More Assertive Policy on Iran

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Online Parliamentary conference by British MPs and Irish politicians – Thursday 15 October 2020

On Thursday, a number of British and Irish lawmakers will be taking part in an online conference intended to highlight the persistent threat of terrorism stemming from Iran. It will be the latest in a series of events organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran to challenge mainstream Iran policy in both Europe and the United States.

Two such events took place last week – an online conference targeting the European political community as a whole and a live-streamed rally outside the German Bundestag, which featured a number of German lawmakers who have gone on record as supporting the NCRI and the 10-point plan of NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi for the future of Iran following domestically-driven regime change.

Forthcoming events will no doubt emphasize many of the same points as the predecessors, including the notion that Iranian terrorist threats against Western nations have become more numerous and more serious as a result of domestic unrest inside Iran. This claim is particularly well-supported by the fact that a major terrorist plot was thwarted on European soil in the summer of 2018, just several months after a nationwide uprising that encompassed approximately 150 Iranian cities and towns.

While that uprising was still in full-swing, regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a speech attributing its rapid spread and uncommonly provocative slogans to the NCRI’s main constituent group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI-MEK). This stood in contrast to longstanding regime propaganda that suggested the group had been destroyed in the late 80s, around the time of a months-long massacre of 30,000 political prisoners.

The 2018 terror plot effectively revived the goal of that massacre, in that it sought to destroy the MEK’s central leadership and its broader international support. A recent report on the details of the plot noted that the 500 grams of TATP explosive that had been provided to the would-be bombers were capable of creating a shock-wave in excess of 100 meters. Depending on its placement, it would have been capable of killing Mrs. Rajavi and many hundreds of nearby supporters, including high-profile dignitaries who had traveled to the French venue from the US, Britain, the EU, and much of the world.

This potential for collateral damage underscores the perception of an increased threat to Western nationals by Iranian terrorists. The further details of the terror plot indicate that Tehran has grown particularly brazen in presenting those threats. Ordinarily, when bomb plots serve Iranian interests, they are channeled through the regime’s militant proxies such as Hezbollah. But in this case, the mastermind for the plot was a high-ranking Iranian diplomat, the third counselor of the regime’s embassy in Vienna.

That diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, is now scheduled to begin his trial in Belgium on November 27. The recent upsurge in NCRI-organized events seems to be driven partially by the perceived significance of this trial, which is to be the first instance of an Iranian diplomat actually being prosecuted for terrorism. But participants in the NCRI conferences and rallies continue to emphasize that this does not mean no other such diplomats have been implicated in the past.

Quite to the contrary, several lawmakers who spoke at last week’s European video conference and German rally urged their own governments to view the Assadi case as grounds for closing Iranian embassies and taking other measures to diplomatically isolate Iran over its well-established penchant for state terrorism.

These recommendations will no doubt be repeated at Thursday’s event, especially given that the previous conferences took place before new details of Assadi’s conduct and background were released to the public. Last Friday, a Reuters report detailed how the former diplomat had attempted to escape accountability by openly threatening further terrorism by Iran-backed proxies who were supposedly waiting to see whether the Belgian government would “support them.” And the following day, a report in Le Monde noted that Belgian authorities had confirmed the involvement of high-ranking Iranian government officials in the plot.

For supporters of the MEK and NCRI, these reports surely lend more support to two often-repeated points: that Tehran freely uses terrorism as a form of statecraft, and that current Western policies toward the Iranian regime are doing little to discourage the continuation of such conduct.

Assadi’s threats reflect an expectation of “impunity,” and this word has been invoked frequently at recent NCRI conferences. Speakers therein have cited a number of past incidents, including the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and more recent crackdowns on the nationwide uprisings, as having received too little attention from the international community. This, they say, has left Tehran with the impression that even bomb plots on European soil are unlikely to elicit a strong response.

Thus, Thursday’s conference can be expected to make the case for a shift toward much more assertive policies by the United Kingdom and Europe as a whole, with the intention of holding the entire Iranian regime accountable for terrorism, right alongside the diplomatic agent who will go on trial six weeks later.