European Union issues sanctions on Iran over assassination plots

Blanche Robertson
January 9, 2019

Iran has been accused by the Dutch government of directing two political assassinations in the Netherlands, triggering European Union sanctions against Tehran's military intelligence service.

The Netherlands accused the agency of the assassinations of two Dutch-Iranian activists opposed to the Iranian regime, after allegations previous year from Denmark that Iran had plotted to kill its opponents on Danish soil.

French security services concluded that the head of operations at Iran's 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 previous year - which Tehran strongly denied.

In a written statement to the Dutch parliament, Stef Blok, the country's foreign minister, said intelligence services had found "strong indications that Iran was involved in the assassinations of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin".

Following the announcement, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium announced sanctions targeting the financial means of people allegedly involved in the killing of the two Iranians. Denmark says it foiled a Iranian intelligence plan to assassinate an Iranian Arab opposition figure on its soil.

Iran has denied any involvement in the alleged plots, saying the accusations were meant to damage EU-Iran relations.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen tweeted shortly after, saying the EU's decision was "very encouraging".

"We have always been 99 per cent sure it was the Iranian regime but the Dutch government never revealed any information", she told The Telegraph.

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The other victim was Ahmad Mola Nissi, who was killed in The Hague in 2017.

The decision to impose the curbs was taken without debate at an unrelated meeting of Europe ministers in Brussels and the asset freeze comes into effect on Wednesday, EU officials said. Their names are set to appear officially in the EU's Official Journal on Wednesday.

"Accusing Iran won't absolve Europe of responsibility for harboring terrorists", he said.

The deputy minister and director general of intelligence is in Iran, while the Iranian diplomat was charged and is being held by Belgian authorities.

Pompeo's reaction came amid an EU-US rift on Iran after US leader Donald Trump walked out of the Iran nuclear arms control deal a year ago and threatened sanctions against EU firms who did business there.

But imposing economic sanctions on Iran, once the EU's top oil supplier, remains highly sensitive for the bloc.

The EU is now trying to create special payment channels to shield EU companies from Trump's wrath while keeping Iran on board with the nuclear pact.

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