The EU hit Iran’s intelligence services with sanctions on Tuesday (8 January) after accusing Tehran of being behind plots to assassinate regime opponents on Dutch, Danish and French soil.
The move by the 28-nation bloc was announced as the Dutch government said it believed Iran was behind the murders of two dissidents in 2015 and 2017.
The EU and the Netherlands take strong action against Iranian unlawful interference in Europe. Targeted sanctions and a clear message underline that this behavior is unacceptable and needs to stop immediately. https://t.co/aBDOq24Atm
— Stef Blok (@ministerBlok) January 8, 2019
“Very encouraging that (the) EU has just agreed on new targeted sanctions against Iran in response to hostile activities and plots being planned and perpetrated in Europe, including Denmark,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said.
Very encouraging that EU has just agreed on new targeted sanctions against Iran in response to hostile activities and plots being planned and perpetrated in Europe, including Denmark. EU stands united – such actions are unacceptable and must have consequences. #dkpol #eudk
— Lars Løkke Rasmussen (@larsloekke) January 8, 2019
The “EU stands united — such actions are unacceptable and must have consequences,” he tweeted.
Sanctions include the freezing of funds and other financial assets of the Iranian intelligence ministry and individuals, officials said.
But Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pointed the finger at European nations he said were harbouring terrorists.
“Accusing Iran does not release Europe from its responsibility for hosting terrorists,” he said in a tweet.
More sanctions not ‘ruled out’
Denmark led efforts for sanctions after allegations that Tehran tried to kill three Iranian dissidents on Danish soil.
A manhunt related to the alleged plot against three Iranians suspected of belonging to the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) led to the shutdown of bridges to Sweden, as well as ferries, on 28 September.
France last year imposed sanctions on two suspected Iranian agents and others from Iran’s intelligence and security ministry.
The French security services concluded that the head of operations at the Iranian intelligence ministry had ordered a plot to bomb a rally of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) opposition group in a suburb of Paris in June last year — which Tehran strongly denied.
“When the sanctions were announced, the Netherlands, together with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark and Belgium, met Iranian authorities,” Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said.
The meeting conveyed “serious concerns regarding Iran’s probable involvement in these hostile acts on EU territory,” Blok said in a letter to parliament in The Hague, also signed by Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren.
“Iran is expected to cooperate fully in removing the present concerns and, where necessary, aiding in criminal investigations,” the letter said.
“If such cooperation is not forthcoming, further sanctions cannot be ruled out,” it added.
The EU has previously trodden cautiously on Iran as it sought to save a beleaguered nuclear deal with Tehran after the US withdrew last year and imposed new sanctions.
The Dutch ministers said that at a meeting with Iranian officials “it was emphasised that the measures were not linked” to the Iran nuclear deal.
“Nevertheless, Iran will be held to account for all matters that affect EU and international security interests” including the 2015 and 2017 assassinations in the Netherlands, the letter said.
Dutch police have previously named the two victims as Ali Motamed, 56, who was killed in the central city of Almere in December 2015, and Ahmad Molla Nissi, 52, murdered in The Hague in November 2017.
Dutch news reports had said Motamed was living in the Netherlands under a false name and is really Mohammad Reza Kolahi Samadi — the man behind the largest bomb attack in Iran in 1981.
Nissi was shot dead in The Hague from a moving car, later found to have been stolen from a suburb outside Rotterdam.
Dutch police said Nissi was the chairman of the ASMLA, which advocates the independence of southwestern Iran’s Ahwaz area.
Last June, the Netherlands expelled two Iranian embassy workers in connection with the murders.
Tehran at the time protested the expulsion as an “unfriendly and destructive move” and threatened to retaliate.
US State Secretary Mike Pompeo tweeted a map acknowledging several Iran-sponsored attacks in Europe, including the bombing of a bus with Israeli tourists at Burgas airport in Bulgaria on July 2012.
Today, EU issued its first sanctions against the Iranian regime since the Iran deal, and the Netherlands disclosed that #Iran directed the assassinations of two Dutch nationals in 2015 and 2017. This follows Denmark and France foiling two Iranian terrorist attacks in 2018. pic.twitter.com/tz7U4pTLh8
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 8, 2019
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a visit in Sofia on 1 November that Mossad had prevented the attacks in France and Denmark from happening.
Strangely, it is only now that the international press highlighted this detail.
NEWS: Israeli Mossad is behind the uncovering of Iranian Ministry of Intelligence plots targeting dissidents, leading to the new EU sanctions https://t.co/p3sJOPjQTR
— Ronen Bergman (@ronenbergman) January 8, 2019