November 2, 2018
On Tuesday 30 October, Denmark announced that a suspected Iranian government intelligence service had tried to carry out a plot to assassinate an Iranian Arab opposition activist on its soil.
Without providing any evidence, Denmark’s foreign minister said he believed the Iranian government was behind the alleged plot, and called for fresh European-wide sanctions against Iran.
Reuters reported that a Norwegian citizen of Iranian background had been arrested in Sweden on Oct. 21 in connection with the plot and extradited to Denmark.
According to Danish intelligence chief Finn Borch Andersen, the attack was meant to target the leader of the Danish branch of an Arab separatist movement, Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA).
However, Andersen added that the arrested Norwegian citizen had denied the charges in court of helping a foreign intelligence service plot an assassination in Denmark.
So far, the only evidence provided against the Norwegian suspect is that he had been observed photographing and watching the Danish home of the ASMLA leader.
ASMLA is a small, radical movement that calls for the independence of Iranian province of Khuzestan. In the past, the Arab secessionist movement in Khuzestan received support from Saddam Hussein, and it is now believed to be supported by the Saudis, especially Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has promised to take the war to Iran.
During the past few months, Iran has been the target of a number of terrorist attacks by Kurdish, Baloch and Arab ethnic groups backed by Saudi Arabia. On 16 October, at least 12 Iranian border guards were abducted on the Iranian side of the Pakistani-Iranian border by Jaish al-Adl, a militant Baloch group, allegedly linked to Saudi Arabia.
It is interesting that the statement about their abduction was issued in Arabic, rather than in Baloch language as is normally done.
Last year, ISIS claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack on Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini’s shrine, killing at least 12 and injuring many more. US government did not condemn that attack, but instead blamed Iran for it.
On 22 September, a major terrorist attack was launched at a military parade in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan province, which incidentally was marking the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq War.
In that attack, 29 people, mainly civilians watching the parade, were killed and about 70 others were injured. Both ISIS and ASMLA claimed responsibility for that terrorist act.
Following those attacks, tens of thousands of people in Ahvaz took part in the funerals of those who had been killed, showing that ASMLA was almost totally isolated.
Following that incident, Iran summoned the ambassadors of the Netherlands, Denmark and Britain to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, protesting against the presence of some leading members of that terrorist group in those countries.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen called the alleged attack against an ASMLA leader “totally unacceptable” and said British Prime Minister Theresa May had voiced her support for Denmark during a meeting in Oslo.
Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen told a press conference he believed the Iranian government was behind the attempted attack. “In light of the latest development, Denmark will now push for a discussion in the EU on the need for further sanctions against Iran,” Samuelsen said.
Denmark’s ambassador in Tehran had been recalled for consultations, Samuelsen added.
Although it is very difficult to make a definitive judgement about this alleged plot, and Danish authorities may provide more convincing evidence about their claims in the coming day, it is perhaps fair to say that at this point it does not pass the smell test and it may be wise to reserve judgement about it. There are a number of factors that seem to have contributed to the story about this plot.
Sunday, 4th November, marks the 39th anniversary of the storming of the US embassy in Tehran by radical students shortly after the Iranian revolution, and holding 55 US diplomats hostage for 444 days.
Here is not a place to discuss the consequences of that terrible act by a bunch of revolutionary zealots, but it cost Iran very dear. Many scholars believe that the hostage crisis was the main motive behind US support for Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran which killed and wounded nearly a million people and did hundreds of billions of dollars of economic damage to Iran.
It also gave rise to crippling US sanctions against Iran that have continued to the present time. Those who still wish to take revenge from Iran for the hostage crisis choose to ignore all those facts, but still remember that single event.
None of the hostages was harmed and their mistreatment only started after the failed rescue attempt by the Carter administration that would have cost many lives had it gone ahead. The planned attack on Tehran was aborted as the result of a sandstorm in Tabas in Eastern Iranian desert where US forces had landed and planned to carry out their daring rescue attempt.
Nevertheless, the hostage crisis seems to have affected the collective American psyche only next to the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
After President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal, he imposed a series of unprecedented sanctions on Iran, which had been lifted as the result of the agreement. As it happens, the second round of the more devastating US sanctions are to be imposed on Iran on 4th November, the anniversary of the hostage taking.
Although other partners to the nuclear deal have so far refused to follow America’s lead, both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton have said that they will not take no for an answer and intend to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero.
The Israeli press has reported that Mossad tipped off the Danes about the Iranian plot. This reminds one of tons of false propaganda that the Israelis have provided regarding Iran’s nuclear programme The Israelis and the Saudis are the main backers of President Trump’s sanctions on Iran and the efforts to get European countries in line with those sanctions too.
The sudden flurry of activity by Danish officials regarding the alleged plot evoked immediate praise by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who is pushing to isolate Iran and to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero.
In a tweet, he wrote “We congratulate the government of Denmark on its arrest of an Iranian regime assassin.” He added: “We call on our allies and partners to confront the full range of Iran’s threats to peace and security.”
The sudden coordination between various European countries and the calls for sanctions on the mere suspicion of the planning of a terrorist act looks very suspicious and seems to be a part of the efforts of the Trump administration to put maximum pressure on Iran.
It also stands in sharp contrast to the muted reaction by the United States and many European countries to the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who lived in exile in the United States and who was a Washington Post columnist.
In his case, the Saudis first denied the murder, then said it was due to a fistfight, then blamed some rogue elements, and finally they had to admit that it was a deliberate act of murder.
Still, we have not heard of any calls for sanctions on the Saudis either by the Trump administration or by the Danish, Swedish or Norwegian governments.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has said that the plot was mounted by Iran’s international opponents to drive a wedge between Tehran and the West.
The spokesman of Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bahram Ghassemi, totally rejected the allegations, and said that at a time when EU leaders were trying to find mechanisms to support the Iranian nuclear agreement from which the United States has withdrawn, it would make no sense for Iran to engage in such an action.
He told Tasnim News Agency: “This is a continuation of enemies’ plots to damage Iranian relations with Europe at this critical time.”
However, we have to wait and see how the latest plot unfolds.