For a very long time, the governments of Europe have tended to downplay the threat posed to their own national security and to the stability of the world as a whole by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The overriding trend in Western strategies toward that country has involved misguided negotiations, often rising to the level of outright appeasement. Yet each instance of reaching out to so-called moderates like current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ultimately reminded the world of Tehran’s unwavering commitment to belligerence and the principles of Islamic extremism.
What the international community must contend with in Iran is a national government that is governed by the same core ideologies as groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Some have argued that this makes Iran a lesser threat than those non-state actors because there are opportunities to negotiate with that government and encourage it to make concessions for the sake of its further stability.
But such notions are badly misguided, and the resulting policies have only proven that Tehran will do anything to preserve its tenuous hold on power, including both making and reneging on agreements that pay lip-service to better relations with the West.
In fact, Iran’s status as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism ultimately makes it a greater danger to the West than non-state actors, despite the fact that the latter type of group has inspired devastating attacks inside European territory in recent years.
In the nearly 40 years since the Iranian Revolution, the Islamic Republic has been responsible for consistent threats and the greatest overall loss of life and property. And although Iran-backed terrorism may seem comparatively subdued at some times, the looming threat is undiminished.
This was proven beyond a doubt last month with the foiling of an Iranian terror plot that would have targeted a rally in support of the pro-democracy Iranian Resistance near Paris on June 30. The incident also demonstrated why Iran’s Islamist government poses such a profound threat to European security, even when its actual European terrorist activity seems quiet.
The plot was masterminded by a high-level Iranian diplomat in Vienna, who provided explosives and instructions to two Iranian nationals living in Belgium as a sleeper cell.
After the plot was exposed, the U.S. State Department, the Belgian federal police, and others called attention to the fact that this is indicative of Iran’s larger tactics of asymmetrical warfare against the West.
Iranian diplomatic missions represent actual or potential pipelines directly to Europe for terrorist operatives and activities. Whereas groups like ISIS must rely on inspiring homegrown European terrorists from a distance or else undertake the difficult task of sneaking a foreign-trained terrorist onto European soil, the Iranians are capable of giving long term-diplomatic posts to agents of their Ministry of Intelligence and Security, which is exactly what they did in the case of the Paris terror plot.
Diplomatic immunity also provides those operatives with potential opportunities to escape justice — something that Tehran is presently trying to exploit in order to thwart extradition and return the plot’s mastermind, Assadollah Assadi, back to Iran.
In a letter to the Belgium Foreign Minister, signed by myself and the two dozen other, politically diverse Italian parliamentarians and dignitaries who attended the gathering on June 30, we firmly underscored “appeasement is never the right way to handle despotic regimes. For this reason, we ask you to reject the regime’s officials’ attempt to cover up their blatant involvement in acts of terrorism in Europe, and to support all that is needed, in your country and abroad, to assert the truth.”
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which organized the June 30 rally and was therefore the main target of the terror plot, issued a statement in response to it, urging European authorities to close Iranian embassies, expel possible terrorist diplomats, and publicize full details of the would-be attack so that public opinion can be fully informed regarding the threat of Iran-backed terrorism.
This is sound advice that the EU should consider carefully.
Such assertive action would represent a meaningful and long-overdue step toward reversing the trend of misguided negotiations and misplaced optimism in dealing with the Islamic Republic.
More to the point, the severance of diplomatic relations would send a strong message about the essential illegitimacy of any government that is based on the principle of Islamic fundamentalism, especially when those principles are so deeply at odds with the society that is ruled by that government.
The longstanding conflict between the Iranian people and the Iranian regime is the main reason why Tehran saw fit to awaken one of its sleeper cells and put one of its leading diplomats at risk last month.
The prospective targets at the NCRI rally presented the world with an account of the recent anti-government protests inside Iran while underlining the fact that there is a viable, democratic opposition movement that is ready to step in as a legitimate representative of the Iranian people after the ouster of the mullahs’ regime.
After nearly 40 years of pursuing friendly relations with that regime and continually exposing itself to Iranian terrorist threats, it is long past time for Europe to recognize that alternative, led by Iranian opposition leader Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, and to reverse those policies that give Iran’s religious dictatorship both strength and legitimacy on the world stage.
Giulio Terzi, a former foreign minister of Italy, is a member of United Against Nuclear Iran’s Advisory Board.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.