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Iran is taking advantage of Europe's leniency

121217 Basiri Blog Post photo
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif cautioned in the New York Times: "As the nuclear deal and the Middle East enter uncharted and potentially combustible territory, it is imperative that Europe helps ensure that we don't soon find ourselves repeating history." However, if there's any lesson to take away from past history, it's that concessions and leniency will only render the Iranian regime more brutal and bolder in the pursuit of its destructive goals. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif warned European countries against doubling down against Tehran’s ballistic missile program and terrorist forays in the Middle East. While upending the truth about his regime’s nefarious agendas and blaming the U.S. for problems that his own regime has caused, Zarif cautioned, “As the nuclear deal and the Middle East enter uncharted and potentially combustible territory, it is imperative that Europe helps ensure that we don’t soon find ourselves repeating history.”

However, if there’s any lesson to take away from past history, it’s that concessions and leniency will only render the Iranian regime more brutal and bolder in the pursuit of its destructive goals. While the new U.S. administration has taken a tougher stance on the multitude of threats that the Iranian regime poses, European states have not followed suit and, for economic and political reasons, have remained undecided on the matter. And the Iranian regime is taking advantage of this situation to cause a rift in the international community.

“Signing economic contracts with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which controls the greater part of Iran’s economic sector, is a shortsighted policy that will endanger peace and stability even further,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi at a recent address at the European Parliament’s Strasbourg headquarters, in which she criticized European states for neglecting their obligations for the sake of economic benefits. Rajavi also stressed that the Iranian regime takes advantage of Europe’s diplomatic and commercial collaboration for its own dangerous objectives, including its destabilizing efforts in the region and domestic repression.

Under the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, forged in 2015, the Iranian regime was relieved of economic sanctions and restrictions in exchange for limited caps on its nuclear program. Iran has since engaged in billions of dollars’ worth of trade agreements with European countries.

These agreements serve a twofold purpose for Tehran. First, it gives Iran a channel to exploit the loopholes in the nuclear agreement to continue funding its terrorist and destructive projects. And second, it makes European states tacit trade partners with the notorious Revolutionary Guards, which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist entity. This makes it harder for Europeans to take a firm stance against Iran’s belligerent behavior and its gross human rights violations.

In parallel, Iran continues to probe for other less conspicuous ways to take advantage of the opening. In November, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned a network of individuals and companies affiliated with the IRGC Quds force, which used European companies to counterfeit hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of Yemeni banknotes.

Earlier in October, German intelligence agencies warned of Iran’s plots to use European markets to circumvent restrictions on procuring dual-use items for its rocket and missile technology program.

As these and many more facts show, the Iranian regime has no intention to respond to European states’ goodwill gestures in kind. Meanwhile, Tehran is taking advantage of Europe’s manifested disinterest in confronting its evil deeds to ramp up its human rights violations at home.

At a large gathering in Paris on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, Iranian dissidents, European dignitaries, and human rights activists urged the international community to condition their relations and trade with the Iranian regime on an end to torture and executions in Iran, and to undertake binding measures to stop the regime’s missile program and drive out the IRGC and its militias from the Middle East.

As its power continues to wane, the Iranian regime increasingly needs Europe’s support to maintain its hold on power. Testament to the fact is Zarif’s desperate tone and pleas for European states not to waver “on issues beyond the scope of the nuclear agreement and following in lock step behind the White House.” European states now have to choose between their short-term economic gains and long-term peace and stability across the world.

As Rajavi warned in her European Parliament speech, “Failing to deal decisively with the religious fascism ruling Iran will impose a deadly war on the region and the world. This is the last chance for Europe to adopt the right policy vis-à-vis the clerical regime.”

Amir Basiri (@amir_bas) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an Iranian human rights activist.

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