WASHINGTON – A plot by Iranian officials to bomb a dissident rally in the heart of Paris “lays bare Iran’s continued support of terrorism throughout Europe,” and justifies the Trump administration’s broad reimposition of sanctions on the state, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.
The secretary praised Germany's decision a day prior to extradite Asadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat accredited in Austria, to Belgium, where officials first hatched a plan to trigger explosives at a June 30 rally of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
“The scale of this plot, which involved arrests of numerous suspects across Europe – including in Belgium, France and Germany – reminds us that Iran remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” Pompeo said. “We support our European allies in exposing and countering the threat that Iranian-backed terrorism poses around the world.”
Last week, France seized assets belonging to Iran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals in response to the plot. “An incident of such gravity on our national territory could not go unpunished,” said a joint statement by its foreign, interior and economy ministries.
Two Iranian individuals are already being held in Belgium suspected of involvement in the bomb plot. They were caught in possession of explosive material.
The State Department recently released a glossy 45-page guide to Iran’s “destructive activities,” highlighting its sustained support for terrorism worldwide.
“After a brief lull in the 1990s and early 2000s, Iran has ramped up its active involvement in worldwide terrorist plotting and attacks, with numerous terrorist operations uncovered or disrupted in Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia since 2009,” asserts the report, published during the administration’s push for additional pressure on Tehran during the UN General Assembly in New York last month.
“The pace of these activities indicates that Iran remains committed to using terrorism to achieve its objectives and is confident in its ability to operate anywhere in the world,” the report continues. As examples, the paper refers to 17 arrests and searches of Iranian officials linked to terrorism in Bulgaria, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Germany – in addition to those arrested in connection to this latest plot – since 2012.
According to State Department officials, the purpose of the paper was to organize the administration’s argument for the resumption of nuclear-related sanctions. US President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and five world powers last May, arguing the agreement should have demanded Tehran moderate its other malign behavior, including its military activities in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
Critics of the nuclear deal, including those in Israel, argue that the purpose of Iran’s nuclear program was to provide deterrence and cover for its other destructive activities worldwide. The administration is hoping to make this argument to the five powers– France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia – that have thus far remained in the agreement.
So far, however, these countries have resisted renewed US sanctions, claiming that Iran’s nuclear work should remain decoupled from its other malign activities, including its support for terrorism.
The harshest of Washington’s sanctions, including those on Iran’s oil and gas sector, are scheduled to resume next month.
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