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January 24, 2019 8:40 am

After Iranian Terror on European Soil, Why Does Europe Still Support the Nuclear Deal?

avatar by David Gerstman


EU High Representative Federica Mogherini with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif before P5+1 nations resume nuclear talks in Switzerland in 2015. Photo: US State Department.

Ahead of next month’s international meeting in Poland to discuss threats to the stability of the Middle East, The Financial Times is reporting that Germany, France, and the UK are seeking to shore up support for the 2015 nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

And yet, according to a recent Reuters report, Iran appears to be doing all it can to alienate these champions of the deal.

French, British, German, Danish, Dutch, and Belgian diplomats conveyed a message to Iranian foreign ministry officials that the EU would no longer tolerate Iran’s ballistic missile tests or terror plots on European soil. The Iranians, according to Reuters, “abruptly stood up, walked out and slammed the door in an extraordinary break with protocol.”

No Iranians commented on the incident, but one European diplomat said, “There was a lot of drama, they didn’t like it, but we felt we had to convey our serious concerns.” A second diplomat added, “It shows the relationship is becoming more tense.”

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The context for the Iranian blow-up is important.

In November 2017, an Iranian dissident was gunned down in Amsterdam. Only recently has the Dutch government become vocal about Iran’s involvement in the killing.

In June of last year, France, Germany, and Belgium foiled a planned attack against a meeting of thousands of Iranian opposition supporters just north of Paris, which was also attended by leading US figures. An Iranian diplomat, accredited to Tehran’s mission in Austria, was implicated in the plot.

In October, Denmark pushed for Europe to impose sanctions on Iran, after foiling an Iranian plot to kill dissidents in the Scandinavian nation.

Earlier this month, the Dutch government accused Tehran of hiring criminals linked to Hezbollah’s global drug empire to assassinate dissidents living in the Netherlands, and the EU imposed sanctions on Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence for a widespread campaign of assassination plots across Europe.

Instead of trying to answer the European envoys and assure them (even falsely) that these attacks on their soil were aberrations that would not happen again, the Iranians stormed out of the meeting. This hardly seems to be the ideal way for Iran to influence nations that will be deciding the fate of the nuclear deal, which Iran views to be to its benefit.

Already in October, The Washington Post reported that the attempted Paris attack had  “sparked growing anxiety” among Europeans, the United States, and Israel that Iran is increasing its intelligence activities abroad in preparation for more “audacious” terror attacks.

Citing American, European, and Middle Eastern experts familiar with the intelligence, Iran is “making contingency plans to strike at the country’s adversaries in the event of open conflict,” the Post said. The Iranian preparations for possible attacks include deploying surveillance units to track opponents of the regime, as well as Jewish and Israeli organizations in both Europe and the US.

A Middle Eastern intelligence official told the Post that there has been a “definite uptick” in activities by Iranian agents recently. The official added that Iran is preparing “for the possibility of conflict.”

The Post also noted that in August, the US Department of Justice charged two Iranian men with espionage. They were accused of gathering information on Jewish and Israeli sites, as well as individuals associated with the rebel group MEK, and passing the information on to Iran.

Perhaps most ominously for Iran, Germany just decided to ban its second-largest carrier, Mahan Air, from operating in Germany. The German government, which has been pushing normalization with Iran more enthusiastically than most nations, decided that allowing an airline that ferries military personnel and equipment to Syria might present a security risk for its own people.

“The German decision is based on considerations of our security needs,” Steffen Seibert, a German government spokesman, said. “It cannot be ruled out that this airline could also transport cargo to Germany that threatens our security. This is based on knowledge of past terrorist activities by Iran in Europe.”

Despite the risks of alienating the Europeans, Iran has refused to address the threats it presents to Europe. Iran is even acting as the injured party.

Iran appears to value the nuclear deal for the respite that it gives Tehran from sanctions, but doesn’t appear willing to change its aggressive behavior to assuage European fears.

This begs the question: With Iran’s aggression and deceit in full view, why does Europe cling to the illusion that the nuclear deal will in any way constrain Iran or change its behavior?

David Gerstman is senior editor of The Tower, the news blog of The Israel Project.

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