Washington Post | By Adam Taylor | January 8, 2019
The European Union imposed sanctions on Iran’s intelligence ministry and two Iranian nationals on Tuesday as the Dutch government accused Iran of likely involvement in two assassination plots in the Netherlands.
The allegations were contained in a letter released by the Dutch government to parliament. The letter indicates Iran is suspected in at least four assassination and bomb plots in Europe since 2015, which will probably bolster the Trump administration’s calls for greater international isolation of Tehran.
The investigations of the two killings led to the expulsion of two Iranian diplomats from the Netherlands in June 2018, the letter said, a move that was not disclosed at the time. The diplomats were not expelled over any confirmed personal involvement in the killings, the letter stated, “but as a clear signal that the Netherlands regards Iran’s probable involvement in these serious cases as unacceptable.”
According to the letter, signed by Foreign Minister Stef Blok and Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren, Iranian officials denied any involvement in the killings when contacted.
AIVD, the Dutch domestic intelligence service, said the first incident occurred in the city of Almere, near Amsterdam, in December 2015. It said a man named Ali Motamed, 56, was shot at point-blank range by two people. The killing initially surprised neighbors: Motamed was an electrician who apparently lived a quiet life with his wife and son.
But the Dutch newspaper Het Parool reported last year that, according to court documents, Motamed was living under an assumed name. His real name was Mohammad Reza Kolahi, and he had been sentenced to death in absentia in Iran in connection with organizing a 1981 bombing of the Islamic Republican Party’s headquarters in Tehran. The attack killed more than 70 people, including the No. 2 figure in the newly established Islamic republic of Iran, Chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammed Beheshti.
Het Parool reported Kolahi entered the Netherlands as a refugee in the 1980s and the Dutch government was not aware of his alleged involvement in the 1981 bombing until his death. The two suspects in his killing were Dutch criminals without connections to the local Iranian community.
The second killing identified in the letter occurred in The Hague in November 2017. In that incident, 52-year-old Ahmad Mola Nissi, the founder of an Arab nationalist movement in the Iranian province of Khuzestan, was shot in front of his home.
Nissi’s daughter blamed his death on the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. “Europe seems safe, but be careful,” Hawra Ahmad Nissi told Reuters in an interview. “The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran is not confined to the Middle East. It is spreading into Europe.”
The letter also identified two alleged acts of Iranian interference in other E.U. nations.
The first was a thwarted bomb plot in Paris intended to target a huge rally led by the Iranian dissident group Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK). The gathering was attended by thousands of people, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney. French President Emmanuel Macron has said Iran was probably behind the plot, but he suggested not all sections of the Iranian government may have been aware of it.
“As you know, Iran is sometimes divided into different factions and tensions, and so I can’t say today whether the order came from the top or from this [security] service or that division,” Marcon told France 24 television in October.
The Dutch letter also describes a foiled assassination in Denmark local authorities uncovered in September. The alleged target in the plot was a member of the same Arab separatist movement as Nissi.
At the time, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen called the alleged Iranian action “totally unacceptable” and wrote on Twitter “further actions against Iran will be discussed in the E.U.”
On Tuesday, the European Union agreed to sanction the Iranian government over its alleged involvement in the plots. The sanctions will freeze financial assets in the bloc that belong to a unit of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security and two Iranian nationals.
Security analysts have said that Iran, under domestic and international pressure, appears to be stepping up its intelligence operations around the world and perhaps even making contingency plans in case of open conflict. The Trump administration, which pulled out of a 2015 nuclear accord with Iran last year, has been trying to rally European powers to push back against Iran.
“Europe isn’t immune to Iran-backed terrorism,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter in July. “At the same time the regime is trying to convince Europe to stay in the Iran Deal, it’s plotting terrorist attacks in Europe.”
In their letter, Blok and Ollongren said the E.U. sanctions on Iran and the ongoing criminal investigations of the alleged plots were not related to the Iran nuclear accord: “As long as Iran fulfills its obligations under the deal, the European Union will do the same.”