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Diplomat’s Terror Trial Should Shape Iran Policy

On June 30, 2018, the National Council of Resistance of Iran held its annual “Free Iran” rally outside of Paris, for the purpose of promoting a democratic future, championing the recent advancements of “Resistance units” inside Iran, and advocating more assertive international policies for dealing with the country’s deeply unpopular theocratic regime. In the run-up to that event, the Iranian regime’s authorities approved plans to carry out a terrorist attack on the event, then channeled those plans through the regime’s diplomatic network, where the third counsellor of the regime’s embassy in Vienna assumed leadership of the operation.

That “diplomat-terrorist,” Assadollah Assadi, took it upon himself to smuggle an explosive device into Europe before handing it off to two operatives who had been recruited in Belgium. The would-be bombers were apprehended by Belgian police while attempting to cross into France, and the device in their possession was detonated after the area had been cleared. The force of that explosion destroyed a bomb disposal robot and slightly injured an officer who was standing more than 200 meters away, and it thereby provided investigators with some sense of the devastation that might have been wrought by the bomb if it had been set off in the middle of the crowd of people that had assembled at the Villepinte convention center.

The NCRI’s annual gathering of expatriates is estimated to attracts above 100,000 participants, including hundreds of political dignitaries representing a wide range of nations and political groups. Affidavits provided to a Belgian court in advance of Assadi’s trial convey a general understanding that if the terror plot had been carried out, the death toll from the initial shockwave would have certainly been in the hundreds, while the ensuing panic and stampede could very well have raised that toll into the thousands.

Furthermore, since the primary target of the plot was NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi, it is very likely that the casualties would have included some of the dignitaries who were seated near her during the event. This goes to show that the regime’s authorities were prepared to put their foreign relationships at risk as part of an effort to stamp out organized opposition to the clerical regime. While this fact may not receive much attention on Friday in comparison to the potential overall impact of the terror attack, it is certainly something that the international community should take into account as they think about the future of their Iran policies.

The international community should not be handing economic advantages to a regime that has no qualms about foreign nationals alongside its own people, or about using diplomatic personnel toward that end. Assadi’s role as mastermind of the 2018 terror plot is only part of a much larger phenomenon, which will presumably be exposed anew in Friday’s proceedings. In the wake of the conspirators’ arrests, a spokesperson for the Belgian judiciary noted that “practically all” employees of Iranian consular services are actually agents in the regime’s Secret Service.

Such observations underscore the potential for more terror plots to emerge in the future like that which almost struck the Free Iran rally two and a half years ago. That potential is sure to be amplified if the Iranian regime has access to greater financial resources, as it will in the event that sanctions relief prompts international companies to return to the Iranian market. Indeed, the lion’s share of those economic benefits will be spent on the planning and financing of terrorism. According to reports prepared by the NCRI, more than half of Iran’s gross domestic product is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The upcoming trial of Assadi is not just the trial of a person, it is the trial of a terrorist regime. To end the mullahs’ terrorist activities on European soil, all of the regime’s embassies should be closed and the regime agents should be expelled.