On Thursday, a court in Belgium convicted Assadollah Assadi, Iran’s diplomat-terrorist, and his three accomplices to a total of 70 years in prison on charges of terrorism. Assadi received the maximum sentence of 20 years for his leading role in the foiled bomb plot against the opposition’s Free Iran rally in 2018 in France.
Assadi’s conviction marks a historic point in Europe-Iran relations and confirms the Iranian regime’s state-sponsored and institutionalized terrorism.
The Belgian court and Belgium’s Judiciary finished their legal task, and now it is time for Western governments to “to act decisively, knowing that further concessions to the regime will only bring more injustice to the Iranian people and more criminal and terrorist acts,” as Ambassador Robert Joseph, former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, said during an online conference on Thursday.
The full text of Ambassador Joseph’s remarks is below:
This is truly a historic day. It’s also a day of total vindication for the NCRI and for the cause of a free Iran.
Following Senator Torricelli is never easy. Following the Senator and Governor Ridge makes it a particularly significant challenge for me, as both of those individuals stand out as true American statesmen and patriots, and I thank them for their many, many contributions.
What I’d like to do is comment on what is often called the “So What Question.” In this case, the question before us is what action policymakers should take in light of what we have learned from the trial and now from the verdicts of Assadi, the terrorist diplomat, and his three accomplices. At the risk of repeating what has already been said, I think it’s important to start with the principal findings that were presented by the prosecution as they provide the proper context for the So What Question.
In short, they are first, this was a deliberate act of state terrorism ordered by and conducted by the Iranian regime. Assadi, the principal defendant, was found to be a senior official of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, assigned to the Iranian Embassy in Vienna and masquerading as a diplomat.
Second, Assadi was not acting alone. He was not a rogue agent. He was in regular contact with higher-level officials in Tehran, receiving his orders from them. He took personal possession of the bomb which had been transported on a commercial airline from Tehran. And designed by professionals to cause maximum damage, maximum death, maximum destruction of those attending the convention in Paris.
Amb. Robert Joseph: Assadi was not acting alone, he was not a rogue agent. He used his diplomatic status as cover for his terrorist activities & undoubtedly the Ministry of foreign affairs was fully aware of his identity. #Time4FirmIranPolicy #Iranhttps://t.co/wEGMX4XmBQ
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) February 4, 2021
Third, Assadi using his diplomatic status as a cover for his criminal activities had been running a network of agents in Europe from his position in the embassy. And there can be no doubt that his true identity was known within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, making the MFA complicit in this terrorist act.
As was stated, this was the first time that an Iranian regime official has been caught red-handed and convicted of an act of state-sponsored terrorism. This brazen act reflects the desperation of a regime that has lost all credibility, all legitimacy, with the Iranian people through the mass murder of over 100,000 of its own citizens from the 1980s until today, through pervasive corruption, through foreign aggression, and support of dictators such as Assad in Syria, through the bankrolling of terrorist groups, and through what is now proven to be direct acts of terrorism in Europe and around the globe. This religious dictatorship has squandered the wealth of the Iranian nation and as the governor pointed out, turned a great nation into a pariah state.
Now that the verdict has been handed down, the judiciary has finished its work. It’s now time for the government to act decisively, knowing that further concessions to the regime will only bring more injustice to the Iranian people and more criminal and terrorist acts. For the EU, this should mean the adoption of a firm policy, including the designation of the MOIS and IRGC as terrorist entities, as Mrs. Rajavi has stated, withdrawing the legal status of all of the regime’s agents in Europe, and reducing, dramatically reducing the level of diplomatic relations until the regime has demonstrated its commitment to forgo terrorist activities.
For the Biden administration, the guilty verdicts of Assadi and his accomplices should weigh very heavily in its review of Iran policy. This act of state terrorism should have a sobering effect. It should end any move to resurrect the appeasement policies of the past and dispel any false nostalgia about working with Foreign Minister Zarif as a moderate influence within the regime. As he, with no doubt, was aware of the attempted attack by MOIS operatives working under his auspices. And I say, “No doubt,” because the attempted bombing of the Paris convention fits an established pattern of using embassies and diplomats stationed in Europe and elsewhere to plan and execute terrorist operations.
Amb. Robert Joseph: For the Biden administration, the verdict should weigh heavily on any relations with the regime. It should dispel any false nostalgia about working with Zarif as a force of influence in Iran. #Time4FirmIranPolicy #Iranhttps://t.co/wEGMX4XmBQ
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) February 4, 2021
As Ali Reza has just recalled, the expulsion of Iran’s ambassador to Albania and his deputy for their role in planning a terrorist attack on the MEK residence at the New Year celebration in 2018, again with Mrs. Rajavi as the primary target.
Here, I would just add that, as was pointed out, the ambassador was previously a member of Iran’s negotiating team resulting in the JCPOA, and that the agreement was still in effect with the United States at the time of the intended attack. Targeting a massive crowd to pursue the criminal objective of killing the leader of the Democratic opposition is a horrific crime that cannot be tolerated by any civilized government.
The new administration must uphold the values that it espouses. If the leaders of free societies fail to hold the perpetrators responsible, including at the highest levels in Tehran, it will only encourage more terrorist acts and make us complicit in them.
I’ll end on a personal note, something I normally don’t do, but I think it reaffirms the message that we’re all sending today. I had the opportunity to lead the discussions, the negotiations with Libya over its nuclear weapons program, discussions that resulted in the Libyan program, literally being packed up and brought back to Tennessee, along with their long-range missiles. I know, Libya’s not Iran. Let me say that again. Libya is not Iran, just as Iran is not North Korea. They’re all different. They’re all unique, but they do have common elements, and one common element is the nature of the regime. These are regimes that conduct diplomacy through blackmail, hostage-taking, and acts of terror. That does not mean that you don’t deal with them, but it does mean that you must take into account whom you are dealing with.
The Libyan delegation across the table from me was led by a rather urbane ambassador from the Foreign Ministry. He was supported by the head of external intelligence, a very cosmopolitan individual, who had attended University in Michigan and, by the way, would later become Foreign Minister. Others came from the military and Khadafi’s personal staff. While it may have been tempting to see at least the first two individuals as more sophisticated, as more refined, as more like us, particularly when we talked about world events or Michigan football.
I never for a moment forgot that this regime, and likely these very officials were responsible for the murder of hundreds of Americans in the Pan Am 103 bombing. It simply doesn’t matter what role these individuals played in the regime at any given time or where they went to school or how well-spoken they may be. They are inseparable, and they are complicit in the regime’s crimes. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t be dealing with them.
Foreign Minister Zarif proves the rule. Thank you very much.