Iran's dictators state piracy, warmongering and kidnappings cannot be ignored any longer – Struan Stevenson

In addition to supporting Hamas and sending drones to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Iran has been attacking and seizing ships off its coast seemingly with impunity

As a regime which for more than 40 years has sponsored violent abduction, blackmail, piracy, assassination, warmongering and oppression, the Iranian dictatorship has no equal. They have ploughed men and resources into proxy wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Gaza.

They have openly backed terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas and, through the extra-territorial Quds Force of their Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), they have directed extremist operations throughout the Middle East and further afield, even sending registered diplomats on terror missions. Now they are supplying kamikaze drones to Russia for use in their illegal war in Ukraine.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The great surprise is that many countries in the West continue to negotiate with this criminal regime, treating it as a bona fide nation state. It is time people realised the catastrophic war in Gaza is the direct result of years of Iranian policies of destabilisation and meddling in the Middle East, rather than simply an escalation of age-old Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Any realistic hope of a resolution to the Israel-Palestine problem must surely include the downfall of the gangster regime in Tehran.

Iran’s aggressive foreign policy and venal corruption

For too long the West has chosen to ignore the theocratic regime’s criminality, focusing instead on its nuclear threat, with America getting bogged down for years in fruitless negotiations over Barack Obama’s doomed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal. Unilaterally abandoned in 2019 by Donald Trump, the JCPOA has been stubbornly pursued again by President Joe Biden, despite clear evidence that the Iranian regime never adhered to the terms of the deal and clandestinely accelerated their production of a nuclear warhead.

Undeterred by Western sanctions, the mullahs continued to pump billions into backing Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Their aggressive foreign policy and venal corruption have impoverished this once-rich nation, destroying the middle class and leaving over 70 million people in poverty.

After Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat in Vienna, was filmed handing over a bomb to three Iranian co-conspirators, instructing them to detonate it at an Iranian democratic opposition rally in Paris in 2018, he was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium. The mullahs simply took a young Belgian charity worker hostage, sentenced him to 40 years, 70 lashes and a $1 million fine on trumped-up espionage charges, then negotiated a prisoner swap with the Belgian government, who shamefully capitulated. Assadi returned to a hero’s welcome in Tehran.

A video screengrab released by Yemen's Houthi movement shows armed men taking over the Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea last week (Picture: Houthi Movement via Getty Images)A video screengrab released by Yemen's Houthi movement shows armed men taking over the Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea last week (Picture: Houthi Movement via Getty Images)
A video screengrab released by Yemen's Houthi movement shows armed men taking over the Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea last week (Picture: Houthi Movement via Getty Images)

Spanish politician shot in botched assassination attempt

EU political leaders warned that such a deal blatantly undermined European justice and provided the mullahs with impunity, encouraging further violent acts of terror. Their warnings, steadfastly ignored by the EU’s senior diplomat Josep Borrell, may have proved accurate with the attempted assassination of former European Parliament Vice-President Alejo Vidal Quadras. On November 9, a black-clad assassin shot the Spanish politician in the head in the Salamanca district of Madrid. Vidal Quadras, a long-time supporter of the main Iranian opposition movement, the Mojahedin-e Khalq, and the National Council of Resistance of Iran, had been absurdly listed as a “foreign terrorist” by the Iranian regime. Fortunately, he survived the shooting but suffered a serious facial wound. Spanish police have so far arrested three people, including an English woman, for alleged involvement in the botched assassination. He has accused Iran of trying to kill him.

Last week Quds Force commandos dropped from a helicopter and seized control of an Israeli-linked cargo vessel in the Red Sea. Claiming to be acting on behalf of the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, the commandos said the ship’s capture was in retaliation for Israel’s war against Hamas. The British-owned and Japanese-operated cargo vessel, the Galaxy Leader, and its 25 crew from Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Philippines, Mexico and Romania, have been taken to the Houthi-held Yemeni port of Hodeidah. The vessel is registered under a British company which is partially owned by Israeli businessman Abraham Ungar.

Time to expel Iranian diplomats

This kind of piracy by the Iranians is not new. In 2019, the oil tanker Kokuka Courageous was rocked by several explosions which caused extensive damage in the Gulf of Oman. An IRGC patrol boat was then filmed moving alongside the tanker as commandos removed an unexploded limpet mine from the hull of the vessel. Also that year, Iran seized the British-flagged Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz. It was held in Bandar Abbas, Iran, for two months and only released following international pressure.

In 2020, an IRGC speedboat armed with heavy machine guns approached within 150 yards of US warships at high speed, as the Americans travelled through the Strait of Hormuz. Warning shots had to be fired at the vessel before it finally withdrew. Then in 2021 a tanker, the Asphalt Princess, was hijacked by IRGC commandos and ordered to sail to Iran – days after a lethal IRGC drone attack killed a British security guard working with special forces, and a Romanian soldier, on the oil tanker MV Mercer Street.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In January last year, the IRGC seized a South Korean-flagged tanker in Gulf waters, claiming they had detained the Hankuk Chemi and its crew for allegedly dumping toxic chemicals in the Gulf, a blatantly false accusation.

The mullahs’ international gangsterism can no longer be tolerated. It is time for the EU and the UK to follow America’s example and blacklist the IRGC and it is time for Western nations to close Iran’s embassies and expel their diplomatic staff. Above all, it is time to show support for the beleaguered Iranian population and the legitimate opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The downfall of this pariah regime will herald a new dawn in the Middle East.

Struan Stevenson, a former member of the European Parliament, is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change and chair of the In Search of Justice committee on the protection of political freedoms in Iran. His latest book is entitled Dictatorship and Revolution. Iran – A Contemporary History.

Comments

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.