On Friday, both sets of complications will be magnified by the proceedings at a terrorism trial in Belgium. The four defendants include a high-ranking Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi who is accused of masterminding a plot to blow up a gathering of expatriate activists outside Paris in June 2018.
He and his co-conspirators each face between five and 20 years in prison, and if they are duly sentenced the result will most likely be condemned by the clerical regime, via its own state media as well as any international outlets that will listen.
Regardless of that response and regardless even of the outcome itself, the trial will shine new light on Iranian terrorism, thereby raising questions about the wisdom of granting sanctions relief to the regime behind it.
The investigations leading up to the trial have already established that the entire regime bears responsibility for the terror plot. The French government made an announcement to this effect several months after the initial arrests.
And Belgium’s intelligence and security agency more recently delivered a note to federal prosecutors which stated, “The planned attack was conceived in the name of Iran and at its instigation.”
Such statements undercut a familiar strategy of deflecting responsibility from the clerical regime by suggesting that Assadollah Assadi was operating on his own initiative. This interpretation of the incident has been promoted less by Iranian authorities themselves than by their apologists in Western political and journalistic circles, who are entirely too eager to see a back into appeasement policy even in the face of Iran’s malign activities.
But the Iranian regime itself has actually undercut that defense with its efforts to help Assadollah Assadi to escape from justice. Without offering any defense for his actions or any plausible suggestion that the allegations against him are wrong, Iranian officials attempted to block his extradition and to claim that his position at the embassy in Vienna afforded him diplomatic immunity throughout Europe and presumably throughout the world.
Tehran continued to stand by Assadollah Assadi even after it was revealed that he had resorted to blackmail and intimidation in an effort to secure his own release.
Transcripts of his interviews indicate that the former third counselor at the Vienna embassy told Belgian investigators that there were a number of militant groups in Iran and the surrounding region which were sure to watch his case closely and determine whether or not European authorities would “support them.”
The clear implication was that further terror plots could be expected to emerge on Western soil if Assadollah Assadi is convicted and sentenced.
Meanwhile, the implication of Tehran’s ongoing support for Assadollah Assadi is that the regime’s leadership shares his impulse to use terrorism and terrorist threats as forms of statecraft. Of course, this is consistent with everything that we already knew about Iran’s theocratic dictatorship.
At the same time, it’s difficult to imagine that Tehran will adopt a policy of contrition after being called out in this way. More likely, leading officials will double down on their recent threats to continue violating the nuclear deal and otherwise threatening Western interests until the US and its allies provide substantial new financial benefits and concessions.
This is as it should be since the 2018 terror plot demonstrated that the period of maximum pressure coincided with an upsurge in Tehran’s belligerence not just toward the authors of that policy but toward all actual and perceived adversaries of the clerical regime.
In light of Assadollah Assadi’s arrest and the ensuing revelations that he had been acting at the direction of leading Iranian officials, all Western policy decisions regarding Iran should be influenced by the awareness that when that regime obtains new financial resources, there is a good chance they will be spent in a way that puts Western lives at risk.