Iranian assassins are back with a vengeance

Elements of Iran’s clandestine services are making increasingly bold and potentially dangerous moves across Europe and Africa, using diplomatic missions abroad as tools to project power in ways not seen since the 1990s, say security officials and counterterrorism experts.

The alleged surge in activity includes assassination plots, accusations of an attempted bombing, and the reported arming of rebel groups far from Iran’s borders. Taken together they add a potentially new and worrying dimension to the tensions between Tehran and the United States over Iran’s nuclear program, refinement of missile technology, and backing for militias in the Middle East.

This week German authorities charged an Iranian diplomat with masterminding an alleged plot to bomb the meeting in France of an exiled opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran‍. Among those in attendance: former New York mayor and current Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has long been a favored speaker at NCRI events.

According to the German prosecutor, the third counselor of the Iranian embassy in Vienna, known as Assodolah Assadi, handed an Iranian-Belgian couple in Luxembourg an explosive device with half a kilogram of the explosive TATP to be used to bomb the June 30 gathering in the Villepinte suburb of Paris. Iran has demanded Assadi’s release on grounds of diplomatic immunity and accused its enemies of concocting a false flag operation. Assadi and the couple remain under arrest.

U.S. officials paint the Iranian government as responsible for the alleged bombing scheme. They reject the notion of a false flag, meaning a set-up by others meant to implicate Iran, and say they are working with Belgian, Austrian, and German investigators.

“When you look at what Iran has done just in Europe since 1984 and continuing up to the present, all nations need to exercise vigilance to protect themselves against the Iranian threat,” a senior U.S. official told journalists this week. “This is only the most recent example of Iran using diplomatic cover to plot terrorism.”

(In fact, Iranian hit teams were deployed to murder enemies of the Islamic Republic at least as early as 1980, when a French policeman was killed in a botched attempt to murder a former Iranian prime minister.)

Days after Assadi’s July 1 arrest, Dutch authorities confirmed that a month earlier they had expelled two Iranian diplomats from Tehran’s mission in The Hague for unspecified reasons. Such expulsions are rare in the Netherlands, which maintains cordial ties with Iran. Last November, Iranian Arab activist Ahmad Mola Nissi was gunned down by an assassin or assassins in The Hague in a case that has yet to solved. Nissi was shot three times in the head and twice in the chest, dying instantly along a sidewalk in the Dutch capital. He was a leader of the ant-regime Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, which accused Iran of ordering the hit.

In early May, Nasser Bourita, the foreign minister of Morocco, accused Iran of smuggling weapons to the Polisario Front, an armed group that has been fighting Morocco in the disputed Western Sahara for the last four decades. Morocco severed diplomatic ties with Iran.

Bourita alleged that members of the Polisario and members of Hezbollah who were working on behalf of Tehran met with Iranian diplomatic officials in Algeria. Bourita described a safe house inside Algeria allegedly used by Iran and Hezbollah, and said that Hezbollah had supplied the Polisario with advanced anti-aircraft rockets.

Bourita named the cultural attaché at the Iranian embassy, Amir Mousavi, previously described as an adviser to Iran’s minister of defense, as a key figure in the scheme. Bourita said he had personally handed a file containing the allegations to Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“Morocco would not have bothered to submit a file to Tehran if it was not solid,” Bourita told the French language weekly Jeune Afrique. “The file was carefully prepared for weeks based on information collected and cross-referenced over several months. It summarizes proven and precise facts: dates of visits of senior executives of Hezbollah in Algeria; dates and venues of meetings with Polisario officials; a list of names of the agents involved in these contacts.”

Source » thedailybeast

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