A look at Iran’s history of assassinating dissidents

Al Arabiya

The Jamal Khashoggi case has taken the world by storm, all in favor of the Iranian regime to take attention from its domestic and international crises, and place the spotlights elsewhere.

What should not go overlooked is the fact that Iran has a long history of brutal methods to eliminate dissidents inside the country and abroad, especially Europe.

This goes alongside the Iranian regime’s atrocious report card of massive terrorist attacks, killing scores of innocent people. Unfortunately, through the past 39 years, the West’s appeasement approach has saved Tehran from any meaningful accountability in this regard. This must change.

Special targets

The names of Kurdish opposition leader Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, former Iranian prime minister Shapour Bakhtiar and opposition figure Fereydoun Farrokhzad have been heard as victims of Iran’s terror machine. One objective of this piece is to see into other cases unfortunately lesser mentioned by mainstream media.

One of the most high-profile cases was the 1990 assassination of Dr. Kazem Rajavi, the brother of Massoud Rajavi, leader of Iran’s main opposition, People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The murder of Kazem, representing the Iranian opposition in Switzerland and the United Nations European Headquarters, was a highly sophisticated operation involving numerous Iranian regime embassies and conducted outside his home on the outskirts of Geneva.

Being a strong critic of the Iranian regime’s human rights violations, Tehran’s mullahs wanted him dead and went to extreme measures for this end result. As in many cases, there is a strong belief that the mullahs’ Intelligence Ministry was directly involved in this plot. Kazem was gunned down in his car on April 24, 1990. In Rome, Iranian intelligence agents assassinated Mohammad Hossein Naghdi, a member of the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), on March 16, 1993.

This former charge d’affairs of Iran was on Tehran’s hit list for joining the opposition ranks and Iranian regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini had called for his assassination back in 1983. After one failed attempt in that same year, Khomeini once again called for Naghdi’s assassination in 1988, resulting in his murder 10 years after the initial order.

Focusing on the main Iranian opposition movements, the Iranian regime’s Supreme National Security Council took steps forward in specifying a list of dissidents whose elimination was considered necessary for Tehran. After Kazem Rajavi and Naghdi, this list included NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mohammad Mohadessin and other senior NCRI figures such as Jalal Ganjei, Manouchehr Hezarkhani, Abbas Davari, Parviz Khazaie and Abolghasem Rezaie

Gruesome measures

The Mykonos restaurant killings is arguably described as one of the most vicious assassinations carried out by Iranian regime operatives. Tehran’s terrorists in Berlin gunned down Iranian Kurdish dissidents in a very brutal manner to send a message.

In 1997, a German court ruled that the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati and former intelligence ministers Ali Fallahian were all involved in this assassination.

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The Anglo-Iranian communities, supporters of Iran’s democratic opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran and main organised opposition movement PMOI, hold a rally in London on Jan. 4, 2018. (AP)

When it comes to eliminating dissidents, Iran’s regime truly recognizes no borders and crosses all red lines of morality. At the age of 39, Ms. Zahra Rajabi was a senior PMOI/MEK member stationed in Turkey when brutally assassinated on February 20, 1996. She was in Istanbul on assignment to protect the rights of Iranian women and refugees in Turkey.

She was found murdered in an apartment with bullets in her body. This assassination proved the Iranian regime is extremely ruthless to the point that even an individual seeking to protect the rights of refugees is considered a target and national security concern.

These assassination dossiers across various counties portray how the Iranian regime’s presidents and senior ministers, along with other high-ranking officials, are directly involved in the murder of Iranian dissidents.

More recently, Saeed Karimian, chairman of Gem TV, was assassinated in Istanbul by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) along with a colleague. This April 2017 killing was immediately followed by Iran’s state media running a chorus of fake news reports claiming the victim had been in collaboration with the PMOI/MEK.

This, parallel to a doctoring of Karimian’s image in a photo next to Iranian opposition President Maryam Rajavi, made it obvious how Iran’s main objective in this assassination of a TV official was to demonize and defame the main Iranian opposition organization.

And speaking of the PMOI/MEK, their members and supporters have been targets of a recent surge in terror and espionage plots, including in Albania, France and the United States. Iran’s Vienna-based diplomat and intelligence operatives in the US and across Europe have been arrested, some facing charges.

Foreign aspects

The Lebanese Hezbollah, a known Iran offspring, has been a designated terrorist organization by the US State Department since 1997. Funded by Tehran, this terrorist group was responsible for the bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut, killing over 50, and the US Marine barracks in Lebanon’s capital six months later, leaving 241 Americans and 58 French peacekeepers dead in 1983.

In 1985, Hezbollah hijacked a TWA flight, holding dozens of American hostage for weeks and eventually killing a US Navy sailor. Hezbollah also played a major role in the Iranian regime’s 1994 attack targeting the AMIA Jewish center that left 85 killed and over 300 injured. In 2006, a US federal judge held Tehran responsible for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 American service members.

At the end of the day, the murder of one human being, let alone more, must be responded with due justice. And if any party deserves facing justice it is the Iranian regime for its four decades long history of assassinations and terror attacks. This undeniable fact is especially worth reminding to the slate of Iranian regime apologists/lobbyists going the distance regarding the Jamal Khashoggi case.

Donald Trump’s Possible Iran-To-Do List

One year into the highly boasted Iran nuclear deal, the work of the Obama administration dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the world witnessed how Iran returned the favor. Tehran continued to cause havoc across Syria with a conglomerate of Shiite militias rampaging and massacring innocent civilians. Iran also launched provocative war drills further destabilizing the flashpoint Persian Gulf region. We were also witness to how Qassem Suleimani, the notorious commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, was paraded in Falluja, Mosul and Aleppo. All in all, Tehran has taken advantage of Obama’s craftsmanship to accelerate its aggression across the region. As a result, President Donald Trump has before him a slate of available to-do measures against Iran.

Washington, under Obama, remained unfortunately mute in response to Tehran threatening America’s Middle East allies through known saber-rattling tactics. The Obama White House continuously ignored Iran’s threats and only responded with non-nuclear sanctions, aimed mainly at maintaining face amongst his critics.

To this end, Obama’s foreign policy in 2016 specifically paved the path for Iran to embark on a more emboldened journey throughout the Middle East.

The JCPOA shortcomings have been discussed to a full extent, as we have witnessed Iran’s nuclear drive only delayed, especially since Tehran has twice exceeded its heavy water production limit. In the process the West ear Deal, has lost significant leverage over Iran.

President Trump has the opportunity to adopt a policy aimed at isolating Iran by making Iranian intransigence come at a high cost for the regime. The Trump administration can take on issues that have always been vital with Iran, and far beyond the JCPOA’s reach. This most specifically involves a strong approach vis-à-vis Iran fueling Middle East crises through the spread of its Islamic fundamentalism mentality.

Through the course of JCPOA talks, Iran used the opportunity to dispatch tens of thousands of Shiite proxy militias from Afghanistan, Pakistan, its own forces and … to Syria to shore up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. This sparked eleven Arab states to take unprecedented measures voiced in a recent letter accusing Tehran of supporting Middle East terrorism and demanding a halt in Iran meddling in their internal affairs. Even the U.S. State Department could not neglect this troubling reality and once again designated Iran as the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism.

Needed now is a comprehensive drive to pressure Iran. The tools and assets available before President Trump are plenty and the first step in the right path would be to correctly and strongly enforce existing sanctions. A policy which, unfortunately, the Obama administration simply refused to abide by.

Senior Iranian officials, including Suleimani, are under a United Nations travel ban that the previous administration failed to enforce. This goes alongside Iran feeling no fear of any accountability as it launched numerous ballistic missile tests and streamlined frequent arms shipments to Yemen, neglecting the U.N. embargo in this very regard. The JCPOA was enshrined by U.N. Resolution 2231, and yet such measures by Iran have gone without any international response, thanks to the Obama administration’s continued silence. Here is another platform where the Trump administration can make it crystal clear for Tehran that the tides have changed and the mullahs’ can no longer count on Obama’s golden era.

Iran has also enjoyed the benefits of a major windfall resulting from the JCPOA, and President Trump can bring this to an end. Licenses for Airbus and Boeing deals can be revoked by the U.S. Treasury Department and conditioned on the mullahs halting their use of various Iranian airlines to transfer personal and arms to Assad and the Lebanese Hezbollah. And Iraq should be pressured by the U.S. to restrict its airspace to Iranian planes flying for such dangerous intents.

While the Obama administration drastically failed to live up to its Syria red line, the new administration in Washington has before it a chance to draw clear lines in the sand.

  1. Assad and Iran’s militias must be ordered to end all hostilities and attacks, especially against civilians that have resulted in uncountable cases of massacres.

  2. Iran must pull out all Shiite militias from Syria and dismantle the Popular Mobilization Units, acting as the Iraq IRGC parallel to the Iraqi classic army.

  3. Iran’s human rights violations must be curbed, especially the horrific practice of executions, including women and juveniles, public floggings and limb amputations. All this has continued under the so-called “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

  4. Despite its flaws, the JCPOA regulations must be abided by Iran and enforced meaningfully by the international community, bringing an end to all existing loopholes.

This would resemble the right start for the Trump administration to springboard into reining in Iran’s regime. And yet, the Trump administration has potential to further broaden its agenda and bring an end to all of the mullahs’ unacceptable practices. A recent letter, signed by a rare bi-partisan slate of former senior U.S. government officials, and hand-delivered to President Trump encourages Washington to work with the Iranian opposition represented by the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Iran’s regime has left no choice but for the U.S. and the international community to start a new campaign of pressuring all its assets to make Tehran understand the costs of continuing such behavior. Rest assured that after four decades of failed appeasement, the only option available is a comprehensive agenda of tough policies to confront the mullahs.

Originally published in The Daily Caller