Tuesday , 25 January 2022

Can Factional Infighting Explain Iran’s Acts of Terror In Europe?

Radiofarda – On 30 October, Denmark’s Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen accused Iran of plotting to assassinate an Iranian Arab opposition leader in Denmark.

He said Denmark will push for fresh EU-wide sanctions against Iran. Later, on the same day, Denmark recalled its ambassador from Tehran, while the Iranian foreign ministry denied any connection with the alleged plot.

This was not the only act of terror by Iran in Europe. On July 5, US Department of State published a list of some of Iran’s acts of terror in Europe between 1979 and 2018.

This was after a plot to target a gathering of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in a Paris suburb came to light a few days after the June 30 event. The meeting was also attended by leading US figures, including close allies of US President Donald Trump.

Six people, including an Iranian diplomat were arrested afterwards in coordinated raids by European police forces. The Iranian diplomat linked to the alleged bomb plot against an Iranian opposition rally in France has been recently extradited from Germany to Belgium.

Police officers and onlookers standing in front of the Mykonos Greek restaurant after four top Iranian Kurd opposition were assassinated, Berlin, on September 18,1992
Police officers and onlookers standing in front of the Mykonos Greek restaurant after four top Iranian Kurd opposition were assassinated, Berlin, on September 18,1992

Speaking on the impact of the development on the future of ties between Tehran and Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said on October 12 it was not clear whether the foiled attack on the Paris-based Iranian opposition group was ordered by the higher echelons of authorities in Tehran.

“As you know Iran is sometimes divided into different factions and tensions, and so I can’t say today whether the order came from the top or from this (security) service or that division,” he told France 24 television in an interview.

France’s foreign ministry had said on Oct. 2 that there was no doubt the Iranian intelligence ministry was behind the June plot and froze assets belonging to Tehran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals.

The world press were closely watching the developments. In an October 12 article the Washington Post warned that the “Foiled Paris bomb plot raises fears that Iran is planning attacks in Europe,” a forecast that came true rather quickly.

Referring to the implications of the factional divide in Iran and the role it plays to furthering acts of terror in Europe, the Washington Post wrote, “While U.S. officials have accused Iran’s top leaders of being behind the biggest plots, Iranian intelligence factions have sometimes acted in competition with one another, with little apparent coordination with the country’s ruling clerics, former U.S. officials said. Some think that pattern may be repeating now.”

Ali Vakili Rad, an alleged Iranian agent smiles as he arrives at Imam Khomeini International Airport, near Tehran, in May 2010, after he was released from a french prison where he was serving a life sentence for his role in the assassination of opposition leader Shahpour Bakhtiar in Paris, in 1990.
Ali Vakili Rad, an alleged Iranian agent smiles as he arrives at Imam Khomeini International Airport, near Tehran, in May 2010, after he was released from a french prison where he was serving a life sentence for his role in the assassination of opposition leader Shahpour Bakhtiar in Paris, in 1990.

The role of factional infighting in Iran’s acts of terror in Europe was well known for about three decades. A 1990 Rand Corporation report titled “Recent Trends and Future Prospects of Iranian Sponsored International Terrorism” reviewed the backdrop and motivation of Iranian atrocities in Europe in extraordinary detail.

“In the future, however, if factional disputes in Tehran over the succession issue become sufficiently acute and persistent to supersede concern over foreign policy, terrorist activities could proliferate as a result of various factions’ preoccupation with efforts to embarrass or under- mine the power of other factions. It is important to note that the Iranian-sponsored terrorists have great potential for growth, since they have not developed particularly close ties with radical, left-wing, or anti-Western non-Shia terrorist groups in Europe or elsewhere. Alliances with these groups could be exploited if factional infighting were to increase radically now that Khomeini has died.” the report observed.

The factional infighting in Iran has never been as fierce as it is now. The two leading factions, the reform faction and hardliners will go out of their way and do anything to incriminate their political rivals or to undermine their plans in domestic politics and foreign relations.

Iranian politicians visiting US and Europe have been observed blaming the opposite faction for disgraceful measures such as imprisoning innocent people or attacking opposition figures living in exile.

The Ahwazi Arab secessionist leader, Ahmad Maula (R), who has been allegedly assassinated in the Netherlands on Wednesday November 8, 2017.
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But factional politics can go so far as an explanation for acts that violate basic norms of state conduct. Maybe one or two rogue acts can be attributed to factional infighting, but four decades of terror operations could not have gone on by a country where the Supreme Leader controls so many levers of power.

The strong response by Denmark to the latest suspected plot perhaps signifies a new era in which Europe might resolve to take Tehran to task.

 

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