Why are Western capitals conceding ground to Iran? - opinion

Our collective weakness before the implacability of Iran’s dictatorship only serves to reinforce its ideologues’ belief that the West has grown weak and meek.

 IRANIAN PRESIDENT Ebrahim Raisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Tehran last month. Raisi plans to visit New York next month to address the UN General Assembly, despite US sanctions.  (photo credit: President Website/WANA/Reuters)
IRANIAN PRESIDENT Ebrahim Raisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Tehran last month. Raisi plans to visit New York next month to address the UN General Assembly, despite US sanctions.
(photo credit: President Website/WANA/Reuters)

Belgium’s decision in June to ratify a treaty with Iran to facilitate the transfer of convicted criminals back to their home soil, created somewhat of a stir, putting the very real question of Terror whitewashing into focus.

The latest chapter in what has been a litany of failures before the assaults of Islamic radicalism against our democratic institutions. Terror’s ideologues ambition now is to reform our legal systems so as to cater to their needs. There is a case here to be made for the hijacking of our democracies.

Under the new treaty, Belgium and Iran are committed to ease the return of their respective prisoners, so they could be allowed to spend the remainder of their sentence in their country of origin – or not, since such decision is left to the discretion of each state. Brussels’ rationale screams of naivety, and may I dare say, profound dissonance before the reality of the Iranian regime.

Belgian naivety

And though in theory, many will understand Belgium’s motivations as several of its nationals currently languish in the Islamic Republic’s prisons, the designated victims of Iran’s blackmail, it is difficult to rationalize how a western capital, a member-state of the EU could appear so willing to violate the sanctity of not only its laws but, of course, its borders and thus its national security, to assuage the ayatollahs. Under such agreement, Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat found guilty of plotting a bomb attack in France against Iranian opposition members, could be returned to Iran, where he would be pardoned and enjoy hero status.

 Police officers are seen before a trial of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, charged in Belgium with planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled Iranian opposition group in France, at the court building in Antwerp, Belgium November 27, 2020.  (credit:  REUTERS/JOHANNA GERON) Police officers are seen before a trial of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, charged in Belgium with planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled Iranian opposition group in France, at the court building in Antwerp, Belgium November 27, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/JOHANNA GERON)

Haven’t we danced to the Islamic Republic’s tune for long enough already?

Iran’s systematic efforts to evade sanctions do not serve to support the idea that its government will behave in good faith – more importantly why should we retreat before Tehran’s attacks?

The leadership’s recent belligerence towards the UN nuclear watchdog, and its subsequent decision to blind cameras whilst committing its resources to the acceleration of its nuclear “adventures” are but one instance of that.

Our collective weakness before the implacability of Iran’s dictatorship only serves to reinforce its ideologues’ belief that the West has grown weak and meek.

Belgium’s stance before Iran’s blackmail is symptomatic of the West’s penchant for political self-flagellation – that and the refusal to admit that terror does not exist in a vacuum but is the manifestation of a political movement: Islamism. Our inabilities to roll out a robust counter-terrorism strategy left us open to such crude manipulation.

If one may appreciate both the use and necessity of diplomacy, compromises cannot entail the dissolution of a sovereign nation’s democratic ideals, principles and institutions. Bending legislation so that foreign demands could be accommodated, against one’s people’s interests sounds too much like treason for any party to wish to entertain.

A conceptual faux pas

IT MAY be that our gravest faux pas thus far has been conceptual. For we have failed to recognize the ideology which underwrites Terror, we chose to see in our enemies, partners we can work with. The logic so far has been one born in guilt – the imperious desire of western capitals to atone for their colonial past and prove themselves the guardian of multiculturalism and liberalism.

The West fears that any projection of strength and/or calls for accountability could be misconstrued for neocolonialism; and its rejection of Islamic radicalism proof that its Judeo-Christian world stands in rejection and opposition of Islam and its people. Such fears have blinded the West to a simple reality – radicalism is the enemy of all faiths and all people.

To speak against Islamism is to defend Muslims’ right to religious freedom everywhere, regardless of the school of thought they espouse. Islamists want to reduce Islam to an abominable dot; our collective silence is empowering such sectarian agenda.

Beyond such a quest for absolution, lies a lack of strategic foresight. Islamic terrorism is not an ideological anomaly, it falls within the remit of radical Islamism. Its ideologues have hijacked our liberal and democratic rhetoric to peddle their illiberal and anti-democratic agenda.

A proponent of terrorism, Tehran has long justified its financing of terror by alleging the righteousness of its goals, positing that its lofty ambitions – the grand liberation of the Muslim world, requires of its loyalists to use force against the Western oppressors, regardless and no matter what. For every retreat Western capitals have tolerated, the ayatollahs and their cohorts of Islamists have pushed us further against the wall, gaining ground where we should have given none.

In Britain, convicted terror boss Abdalraouf Abdallah – who, from his prison cell helped radicalize Salman Abedi, the Manchester O2 Arena’s bomber – could soon walk free as he is set to appear before the Parole Board. A representative of the Parole Board told the press: “We can confirm the parole review of Abdalraouf Abdallah has been referred to the Parole Board by the secretary of state for justice and is following standard processes.”

“We can confirm the parole review of Abdalraouf Abdallah has been referred to the Parole Board by the secretary of state for justice and is following standard processes.”

Parole Board

Why should a man convicted of terrorism benefit from the clemency of Britain’s legal system – especially if we consider that his career was spent arguing about the illegitimacy of western laws, western values, and western democracies?

Earlier this month in the United States of America, Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American activist and journalist, made famous for her campaigning against Iran’s mandatory headscarf, was stalked and her life threatened by one of the regime’s sympathizers on her very doorstep. And though Iran did not claim responsibility, its shadow extends too grand for anyone to deny. That and the fact that a year ago to the day Tehran attempted to kidnap Alinejad so that she could be returned to her homeland and face the Ayatollah’s judgment.

Today, news is awash of the pending arrival to New York of Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi – himself a war criminal accused of committing crimes against humanity.

Since it is unlikely our governments suffer from memory loss, one must conclude either apathy or fear – either way we find ourselves in an unsustainable situation. Under its current regime Iran poses a threat too great for any of us to be complacent. The survival of our democracies demand that we stand strong on the very principles which made them flourish – that of the rule of law, free speech, human rights, and, above all, the understanding that life is sacred.

The writer is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society in London.