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Online Panel: Iran Opposition NCRI Weighs Regime Foreign Ministry’s Role in 2018 Bombing Plot

Several prominent figures from the United States are attending an online conference held by the National Council of Resistance of Iran U.S. representative office (NCRI-US) today. This event and its panelists will elaborate on the impact of today’s verdict by a court in Belgium in the case of Iran’s diplomat-terrorist Assadollah Assadi for his role in a bomb plot in 2018.

On Thursday morning, February 4, the Belgian court rejected Assadollah Assadi’s claim of diplomatic immunity and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. The other three agents of the Iranian regime, Nasimeh Naami, Mehrdad Arefani, and Amir Saadouni, were sentenced to 18, 17, and 15 years in prison, respectively. Their Belgian citizenship was also revoked. Assadi along with his co-conspirators attempted to bomb the annual “Free Iran” gathering of the NCRI in 2018 in Paris.

During a global conference simultaneous with Assadi’s court decision, the NCRI’s President-elect Mrs. Maryam Rajavi stated that the conviction of the clerical regime’s diplomat and his intelligence agents was the conviction of the regime in its entirety, a momentous triumph for the Iranian people and Resistance, a heavy political and diplomatic defeat to the Iranian regime, and an irreparable blow to its strategy of exporting and spreading terrorism.

This event is moderated by Alireza Jafarzadeh, the Deputy Director of the NCRI-U.S. The panel includes Gov. Tom Ridge, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Senator Robert Torricelli, Amb. Robert Joseph, former Undersecretary of the State for Arms Control and International Security, Amb. Marc Ginsberg, former White House Middle East Advisor, Amb. Lincoln Bloomfield, Distinguished Fellow and Chairman Emeritus at the Stimson Center, and NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee member Farzin Hashemi.

NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee member Farzin Hashemi

Farzin Hashemi speaks to the online panel - February 4, 2021
Farzin Hashemi speaks to the online panel – February 4, 2021

Today is a historic day and this is an historic judgement by the court in Antwerp. Over the past two-and-half years, the regime did all it could to derail the trial. They first raised diplomatic immunity for Assadi, which was rejected. They also put diplomatic pressure on European countries. When that didn’t work, Assadi directly threatened the investigators.

Their next measure was to take dual nationals as hostages in Iran. Before the trial, the regime announced that it would be executing one of the hostages. The Belgian judiciary also acknowledged that the regime has proposed prisoner swaps, which Belgium has rejected.

What the court said today was the confirmation that what we are facing is state terrorism. For many years, there has been a false notion that the terrorist activities attributed to the regime are the works of rogue elements. But this file clearly shows that the entirety of the regime were involved. The decision was made at the Supreme National Security council and approved by Khamenei. It was closely coordinated with the Foreign Ministry.

Assadi was identified by the court as a senior agent of the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), but it was also stressed that he was not acting on his own volition and carried out the plot on behalf of Tehran.

The court also stressed that had the attack not been foiled, it could have caused mass casualties and was indeed an act of terrorism. The evidence is undeniable.

Beligan security services also concluded that the terrorist act was planned in Iran and Assadi was acting on behalf of the state of Iran. Every single argument that the lawyers of Assadi and other defendants had made were rejected by the court.

Assadi used his diplomatic privilege for terrorism purposes. This is a good reminder to anyone who wants to negotiate with the regime that they are all complicit in the regime’s crimes. Zarif facilitated the attack through his diplomatic channels.

The terrorist network run by Assadi must have been extremely extensive, the judge said, based on the payroll that Assadi carried and the payments he made. This terrorist apparatus is still out there and active. European countries—and also in the United States—a major practical task for all these governments is to identify and dismantle this terrorist network.

What is enormously vital in this regard is a right policy. It is important in the U.S. and Europe to take this matter very seriously and make sure the right policy is adopted. When you make concessions to the mullahs regime, they will become emboldened in their attacks in Europe, their belligerence in Europe, and their nuclear ambitions.

The judicial system in Belgium has completed its task with the conviction of the terrorist and clarifying the Iranian regime was behind this terrorist act. It is now time for European governments and the U.S. to take the right measures to contain the regime’s terrorist behavior and human rights violations.

This was a turning point, and it is time for the world to recognize this is a regime that is a state sponsor of terrorism, and they must also recognize the Iranian people’s desire for regime change at their own hands and that of their resistance movement. It is time for a new Iran policy.

Governor Tom Ridge, first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security

Governor Tom Ridge speaks to the online panel - February 4, 2021
Governor Tom Ridge speaks to the online panel – February 4, 2021

This was a reminder to the world that this was a state-sponsored terrorist act. There were a series of acts that show this is a country that has acted with impunity and audacity and against the norms of civil society. They have brought chaos and destruction to advance their own ends.

The truth is, this is a pariah state, and they have acted that way for the past forty years. This is just the most recent terrorist event. They have exported terrorism to Europe on multiple occasions. They support Hamas and Hezbollah. They support proxies in Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq. They have tortured and executed thousands of individuals. They have promoted plots in Africa. They are threatening international waters. They are pursuing nuclear bombs.

President Bush described the regime as an unelected few seeking to repress the Iranian people’s hopes for freedom. Those hopes have been best expressed by the NCRI. For those countries who want to repudiate Iran’s terrorism, the most important action they can take is to simply recognize the NCRI as the embodiment of the Iranian people’s aspirations and hopes for freedom.

Senator Robert Torricelli

Senator Robert Torricelli speaks to the online panel - February 4, 2021
Senator Robert Torricelli speaks to the online panel – February 4, 2021

It is hard to overstate the significance of what has happened. A sovereign nation, a member of the United Nations that has diplomatic relations with the European Union, has had one of its diplomatic agents convicted of committing an act of terror in the heart of Europe, to potentially kill scores of people. I do not know how European leaders who have Iranian embassies in their capital can continue as if nothing has happened. The events of today make a mockery of the fact that these relations will maintain. Every head of a European country has some serious thinking to do.

What if the bomb had exploded as planned? I was at that rally, so was the former Prime Minister of Canada, cabinet ministers of Germany, France and Italy. Members of parliament from Europe and the U.S., along with military staff. The plan was to assassinate NCRI President Maryam Rajavi, but many of these people would have been murdered.

Continuing diplomatic relations with Iran in the face of what might have been is to ignore reality. Countries have serious thinking to do. If the intent of the Biden administration is to re-engage with Tehran on nuclear negotiations, they must consider who will be sitting across the table. Zarif? His agents? People who were sent to kill us?

Absent these assassination attempts and today’s events, it would have made sense. But what about now? Can it be possibly justified to reenter the course of negotiations without taking into account these events? Regardless of our differences, we should maintain pressure on the Iranian regime.

The burden now falls on the political administration and in particular the Biden administration.

To the Iranian people, you did not choose this government, and you paid the price with thousands killed and executed. The government in Tehran is a terrorist regime, and by whatever means necessary, the burden of history falls on your shoulder to remove it. This regime must fall, and all of you, wherever you are in Iran, can play a role as all leaders across Europe and America must think about their roles.

Amb. Robert Joseph, former U.S. Undersecretary of State and Special Envoy for Nuclear Nonproliferation

Amb. Robert Joseph speaks to the online panel - February 4, 2021
Amb. Robert Joseph speaks to the online panel – February 4, 2021

This is truly a historic day. It is also a day of total vindication for NCRI and the cause of freedom in Iran. The question before us is what action policymakers should take.

This was a deliberate act of terrorism ordered and conducted by the Iranian regime. Assadi was not acting alone and he was not a rogue agent. He received orders from Tehran. He took personal possession of the bomb. Assadi used his diplomatic status as cover for his terrorist activities and there is no doubt that the regime’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was fully aware of his identity.

This regime has already lost all its legitimacy among its own people, through the mass murder of people in Iran, by supporting terrorist groups and governments across the world, and by turning Iran into a pariah state.

More concessions to the regime will only bring further injustice to the Iranian people and more terrorist acts. For the EU, this means withdrawing all ambassadors and reducing diplomatic relations. 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.

Targeting a massive crowd to pursue the objective of killing the leader of an opposition movement must not be tolerated. If leaders of free societies fail to hold the regime to account, it will only embolden the regime and those leaders will be complicit in further acts of terrorism by this regime.

You must take into account whom you are dealing with. It does not matter how well spoken the regime’s officials are. These individuals would not be in their position if they were not complicit in the regime’s crimes. Zarif proves this rule.

Amb. Lincoln Bloomfield, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs

Amb. Lincoln Bloomfield speaks to the online panel - February 4, 2021
Amb. Lincoln Bloomfield speaks to the online panel – February 4, 2021

What we have seen is that law enforcement and criminal justice authorities in several European countries have had to deal with the Iranian regime’s terrorist activities.

What did Zarif say? That this is a false flag operation, that the MEK was going to blow up its own supporters at the event. Now Zarif is lecturing the world to abide by international law.

At some point, the U.S. has to realize that we have made gesture after gesture to Iran. For 41 years, this regime has always acted in bad faith. They are still attacking us through proxies. They are aiming the nuclear gun at the rest of the world. They are trying to hold us hostage.

What can the U.S. do? We can and should launch a counterintelligence investigation on the Iranian regime’s activities in the U.S. An initiative that has no relation to the nuclear talks must investigate the regime’s human rights abuses and the role of Iranian leaders. We should press for justice on this. Does anyone think the Iranian regime leaders have less blood on their hands than the former leaders of Yugoslavia who stand trial at the Hague? We also need a comprehensive strategy to end 41 years of terrorism. We need to think out of the box. Let us have a new strategy and let us bring the guilty to justice. What the regime has tried to do in Paris is no different from what ISIS has been doing.

Amb. Marc Ginsberg, U.S. ambassador to Morocco (1994-1998), former Deputy Senior Adviser to the U.S. President for Middle East Policy

Amb. Marc Ginsberg speaks to the online panel - February 4, 2021
Amb. Marc Ginsberg speaks to the online panel – February 4, 2021

The JCPOA under the Obama administration was viewed as a “get out of jail” card for the regime. Money flowed to the regime and Zarif became a celebrity. There were hopes the regime would moderate. The facts are basically clear. The JCPOA provided the regime more time to evade sanctions, to gain hard currency, to plot terrorist attacks, to harm our allies, and to continue to plan its nuclear weapons program.

I do not know what we have to gain from entering the same agreement. The real problem in the last negotiation was that Iran set the terms. That can no longer be the strategy for the Biden administration. We have a responsibility that we take all these recommendations from our allies and Congress to make sure that this does not happen again.