How Iran Works with Organized Crime to Eliminate Its Enemies

Dec. 29 2020

On December 12, the Islamic Republic executed a dissident expatriate journalist named Ruhollah Zam. Apparently Zam, who was living in Belgium, was lured by a comely young woman to Iraq, where Iranian agents kidnapped him and brought him to his homeland against his will. Tehran has used such schemes more than once to dispose of its enemies, along with carrying out assassinations on foreign soil. Michael Segall describes recent revelations about the ayatollahs’ methods:

A series of articles published recently in the Turkish, British, and American media indicate that Iranian intelligence is making effective use of major international crime organizations and drug cartels in several countries to advance its goals, notably capturing dissidents in the diaspora. These organizations have affiliates in other countries, for example Romania, a country where a senior Iranian judge was recently assassinated during a mysterious trip.

One such organization has become the long arm of Iranian intelligence. It is run by Naji Sharifi Zindashti, born in Oroumieh, Iran, and the son of a [Kurdish] Peshmerga fighter. Zindashti was detained in Evin prison after a conviction for drug trafficking at the age of twenty. He escaped from prison and lived in Turkey for many years. Zindashti had contacts with Turkish politicians in President Erdogan’s AKP party. . . . He was mysteriously released from prison in 2010 after his arrest in 2007 in Turkey for possession of 75 kilograms of heroin.

Zindashti was also wanted in Greece in 2014 after the discovery of the largest shipment of heroin in European history. After the two-ton shipment was uncovered on a freighter, a series of mysterious murders also took place in various countries.

It should be noted that over the years, even as Iran has carried out assassinations in European countries, these Western nations have maintained trade relations with it, while ignoring repeated human-rights violations in Iran and global terrorist operations outside it. Even now, despite the sanctions imposed on the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, the European Union’s primary interest is to continue the economic ties with Iran.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: European Union, Human Rights, Iran, Terrorism


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount