Iran’s Long History of Terror in Europe

Aug. 14 2018

In June, German and Belgian police—acting on a tip from Israeli intelligence—foiled a plot to bomb a rally being held in France by an Iranian opposition group, which several American public figures were expected to attend. The plot was orchestrated by an Iranian diplomat stationed at Tehran’s embassy in Vienna. This was by no means the first time one of the Islamic Republic’s diplomats has engaged in terrorist activity; the most notorious examples include the hijacking of TWA flight 847, several attempts on the life of Salman Rushdie, and the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Matthew Levitt writes:

In June 2018, a [separate] investigation by Dutch intelligence led to the expulsion of two Iranian diplomats based at the Iranian embassy in Amsterdam. . . . This followed the assassination several months earlier of an Iranian Arab activist who was gunned down in the Dutch capital. . . . In January 2018, after weeks of surveillance, German authorities raided several homes tied to Iranian operatives who reportedly were collecting information on possible Israeli and Jewish targets in Germany, including the Israeli embassy and a Jewish kindergarten. . . .

[I]n 2012, four [Iranian] operatives were found trying to attack Israeli targets in Turkey, and another was arrested in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he was conducting surveillance of a local synagogue. . . . The first successful assassination of an Iranian dissident in Western Europe occurred in 1984. . . .

Despite the fact that so much of this activity has occurred on their soil, European countries have been consistently passive in their response:

The most daring and public assassinations Hizballah carried out at the behest of its Iranian masters occurred on September 17, 1992, when operatives gunned down Sadegh Sharafkandi, secretary-general of the PDKI—the largest movement of Iranian Kurdish opposition to Tehran—and three of his colleagues at the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin. This operation also involved Iranian diplomats. In its findings, a Berlin court ruled that the attack was carried out by a Hizballah cell by order of the Iranian government. . . .

And yet, the German court ruling in the Mykonos case did not translate into durable and tangible action against Iran or Hizballah. . . . Apparently concerned over the diplomatic ramifications, the German ambassador to Iran distanced his government from [any] assertion of Iranian responsibility for the Mykonos attack. While many European nations withdrew their ambassadors from Iran following the ruling, this diplomatic freeze lasted only months. And . . . none of the Iranian leaders identified in the court judgment—[then-President Hashemi] Rafsanjani, [then-Foreign Minister Ali Akbar] Velayati, or [Supreme Leader] Ali Khamenei—was ever held to account for his role in the attack.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: AMIA bombing, Europe, Hizballah, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Terrorism

How Israel Can Break the Cycle of Wars in Gaza

Last month saw yet another round of fighting between the Jewish state and Gaza-based terrorist groups. This time, it was Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) that began the conflict; in other cases, it was Hamas, which rules the territory. Such outbreaks have been numerous in the years since 2009, and although the details have varied somewhat, Israel has not yet found a way to stop them, or to save the residents of the southwestern part of the country from the constant threat of rocket fire. Yossi Kuperwasser argues that a combination of military, economic, and diplomatic pressure might present an alternative solution:

In Gaza, Jerusalem plays a key role in developing the rules that determine what the parties can and cannot do. Such rules are designed to give the Israelis the ability to deter attacks, defend territory, maintain intelligence dominance, and win decisively. These rules assure Hamas that its rule over Gaza will not be challenged and that, in between the rounds of escalation, it will be allowed to continue its military buildup, as the Israelis seldom strike first, and the government’s responses to Hamas’s limited attacks are always measured and proportionate.

The flaws in such an approach are clear: it grants Hamas the ability to develop its offensive capabilities, increase its political power, and condemn Israelis—especially those living within range of the Gaza Strip—to persistent threats from Hamas terrorists.

A far more effective [goal] would be to rid Israel of Hamas’s threat by disarming it, prohibiting its rearmament, and demonstrating conclusively that threatening Israel is indisputably against its interests. Achieving this goal will not be easy, but with proper preparation, it may be feasible at the appropriate time.

Revisiting the rule according to which Jerusalem remains tacitly committed to not ending Hamas rule in Gaza is key for changing the dynamics of this conflict. So long as Hamas knows that the Israelis will not attempt to uproot it from Gaza, it can continue arming itself and conducting periodic attacks knowing the price it will pay may be heavy—especially if Jerusalem changes the other rules mentioned—but not existential.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israeli Security, Palestinian Islamic Jihad