In an abnormal attempt to curtail the threats posed by the world’s foremost state-sponsor of terrorism, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has pushed the Chamber of Representatives to vote for the freeing of convicted Iranian terrorist Assadollah Assadi. Finally, under pressure from the government, the parliament approved the bill on July 20, 2022.
On February 4, 2021, a court in Antwerp sentenced Assadi to 20 years in prison for orchestrating a foiled bomb attempt against the Iranian opposition gathering in a suburb of Paris in June 2018. The convicted terrorist, and former third counselor of Tehran’s embassy in Vienna, exploited diplomatic coverage to transfer 500 g of TATP explosive material to Austria on a commercial flight.
As an officer of the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), Assadi was also in charge of a vast network of Tehran’s spies and covert agents across Europe. Upon Assadi’s arrest, law enforcement officers found two booklets in his belongings, including the names of hundreds of agents across the continent, appointment places and times, and their salary receipts.
Why Belgium Succumbs to Tehran’s Blackmail?
For decades, the Iranian regime has exploited a hostage-taking policy, barraging for political and financial concessions. Over the years, the MOIS and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have taken dozens of foreign citizens and dual nationalities under bogus charges.
The regime began this nasty method by attacking the US embassy in Tehran and taking dozens of diplomats, staff, and security forces hostage in November 1979. The then-US administration conceded to the mullahs a year later, making the infamous disgraceful Iran-Contra deal.
Since 1979, the regime has frequently blackmailed the West into giving them pallets of cash or freeing its terrorists. In March, the UK paid £400 million [$522 million] back to release British-Iranian author Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and low-known hostage Anoosheh Ashoori from Iranian custody.
In November 2020, the regime eventually released Melbourne University lecturer Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert after 804 days when Australia brokered a deal with the Thai government to repatriate three convicted terrorists. The deal was considered a victory for the Iranian state hostage-taking by some and a humanitarian move by others. Indeed, Moore-Gilbert was released; however, the West only fueled the mullahs’ aggression with concessions.
Mrs. Moore-Gilbert later revealed that regime officials had asked her to become a spy during her drawn-out imprisonment, which she says was a harrowing experience that gave her prolonged anxiety and panic attacks. In an interview with the SBS news agency in March 2021, she said, “Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps tried to recruit me as a spy many times while I was in prison.”
In 2015, the then-US administration also paid billions of dollars to release dual nationality citizen Jason Rezaian, who later became a part of the Iranian regime’s lobby arm in Washington DC, parroting Tehran’s talking points under the banner of a former hostage. The US also released Prof. Xiyue Wang in exchange for Massoud Soleimani, who had violated the US sanctions against Tehran.
This list is not limited to the US, UK, and Australia alone; many other countries, including France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy, have either ignored prosecuting Tehran’s terrorists or handed them over to the mullahs.
Former IRGC commander Hassan Abbasi frankly admitted to the regime’s hostage-taking policy, stating, “Look how the IRGC generates funds. The IRGC detains a spy like Jason Rezaian.”
In January 2020, he explained, “Currently, the Iranian regime once again tries to take advantage of this policy. For years, Tehran has held Swedish-Iranian scholar Dr. Ahmad-Reza Djalali, ensuring the release of its trapped terrorists. To put the Swedish government in an awkward corner, the judiciary has sentenced Djalali to the death penalty. The US pleads for him to be released.”
He added, “We say, ‘No, you have to pay for him. Afterward, our government gets paid $1.7 billion to hand over this spy. Thus, by detaining just one spy, the IRGC earns the equivalents of the $1-2 billion it was supposed to receive from the government budget.”
Hostage-Taking, Tehran’s Leverage to free its terrorists
In addition to Olivier Vandecasteele, Relief International’s Country Director for Iran, Tehran has also taken hostage of French tourist Benjamin Briere, French-Iranian Nazak Afshar, and Fariba Adelkhah, Austrian-Iranian Massud Mossaheb and Kamran Ghaderi, German-Iranian Nahid Taghavi, Canadian-Iranian Abdolrasoul Dorri-Esfahani, among many others.
Nevertheless, Europe and the US encouraged the hostage-taking regime in Iran to continue this approach. Still, the mullahs only understand the language of strength and firmness.
Under such circumstances, the Belgian government’s treaty recognizes the Iranian regime’s blackmail policy as a means of power rather than holding the hostage takers to account. The deal also signals Tehran to intensify terror attempts on European soil and encourages more hostage-taking.
Belgian MPs Condemn the Treaty to Release Terrorists
Belgian MPs also severely condemned the treaty. Iranian-born Belgian MP Darya Safai, said, “Undermining our security to give in to blackmail from the Ayatollahs. This deal makes Belgium a safe haven for terrorists. The government should be ashamed. Can those who voted for #IranDeal still look in the mirror?”
MP Michael Freilich also denounced the deal. He said, “Iran can smell weakness; it exploits weakness. We must speak the language of force and warn Teheran that if it does not release our hostages, we will take action against it!”
MP Metsu Koen blamed the Belgian government for the disgraceful deal. He said, “Yes, we want our innocent compatriot free as soon as possible. Freeing terrorists is never negotiable. This would set a deadly precedent! Close Iran’s Embassy in Brussels as long as they hold our innocent compatriot hostage.”
Sophie Rohonyi decried the deal, saying, “Alongside Iranian Resistance fighters against the treaty allowing the Iranian government to continue its hostage-taking of European foreigners to obtain, in exchange, the transfer and amnesty of pro-regime terrorists. The dignity of Belgium and Justice are at stake!”
MP Theo Francken also slammed the government for the deal, posting cartoons showing De Croo rolling out a red carpet for Iran’s dictator Ali Khamenei and a crew plane bid farewell to Assadi while Khamenei is waiting for him with a garland.
On July 14, he said, “A lot of and emotional Iranian diaspora on their feet in Brussels. They fear the Assadi deal will make the Ayatollahs even more brazen. Their lives are also in danger. As difficult as the moral dilemma may be, the public interest prevails, and we must reject this deal.”
Peter De Roover also expressed his concerns over the deal’s approval, mentioning the international condemnations. He said, “Perhaps Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne isn’t listening to us to cancel his Iran deal that will release terrorists but is listening to Amnesty International, Chr. Van den Wygaert, John Bercow, Ingrid Betancourt, Giulio Terzi, a series of European ex-ministers. No to Iranian blackmail.”
The Deal’s Consequences
In a nutshell, the deal would leave irreparable consequences, jeopardizing Europe’s security. As Belgian MPs mentioned, the deal sends a message of weakness and vulnerability to the terrorist regime in Iran. In other words, the Belgian government is turning the country into a nest for Tehran’s assassins and other terrorist entities affiliated with the Iranian regime, like Lebanese Hezbollah.
Prime Minister De Croo and Justice Minister Quickenborne are also putting the lives and freedom of Belgian citizens at stake. They practically encourage the regime to take more hostages and gain more advantages.
The treaty also insults the Belgian judiciary system and challenges its reputation. The Belgian rule of law would be dark humor if the deal closed and Assadi is returned to Tehran, which would put Belgium’s dignity and authority into disrepute.