Ardavan Khoshnood, professor i akutmedicin i Malmö, är också flitig skribent kring islamistisk terrorism.
I en längre artikel på israeliska BESA Centers hemsida skildrar han hur mullorna gradvis utvecklat sin terrorapparat sedan maktövertagandet i Iran 1979.
Läs ett utdrag nedan.
Not long ago, Politico published an exclusive item stating that the Islamic Republic of Iran was plotting to assassinate US ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks. According to US intelligence, an Iranian threat against Marks is known to have existed since the spring of 2020. The South African intelligence organization, the State Security Agency (SSA), stated said that it has no knowledge of any assassination plans. In typical fashion, Tehran vehemently denied the existence of such plans. Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh addedthat the claim of an Iranian assassination attempt was part of “the Trump administration’s counter-intelligence campaign against Iran.”It is impossible to know whether the American intelligence reports are correct or on what they are based. But a review of the history and style of the Islamic Republic of Iran can provide some indication of whether the Iranian regime is either willing or able to attack foreign diplomats abroad. This is of particular interest with respect to South Africa, where the Iranian regime and its operatives are highly active.The regime’s first international assassination was conducted very soon after the establishment of the Islamic Republic in April 1979.
On December 7 of the same year, Prince Shahriar Shafigh, a captain of the Imperial Iranian Navy and the Shah’s nephew, was gunned downin Paris by Iranian assassins. Seven months later, on July 22, 1980, Ali Akbar Tabatabaei, a supporter of the Shah, was shot and killed at his home in the US state of Maryland. The assassin, David Theodore Belfield, was an African American who had converted to Islam and changed his name to Dawud Salahuddin. After the assassination he fled to Iran, where he resides to this day.
So many assassinations were conducted by Tehran over the decade between 1988 and 1998 that they have been given a title, the Chain Murders. The killings began during the presidency of Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and continued during the presidency of Muhammad Khatami. Interestingly, both these presidents are deemed to be the fathers of the reformist movement in Iran. During the Chain Murders, dozens of Iranians were assassinated both inside the country and abroad. Of those assassinated in Iran, individuals like Ebrahim Zalzadeh, Dariush Forouhar and his spouse Parvaneh Eskandari Forouhar, and Hamid Hajizadeh and his nine-year old son, Karoun, can be mentioned. They were all deemed to be a liability for the Islamic Republic and were therefore killed. Those assassinated abroad include the Shah’s last PM, Shapour Bakhtiar, and his secretary Soroush Katibeh, as well as Abdorrahman Boroumand. All three were viciously stabbed to death in France.
The most infamous killings by Iran on foreign soil, also part of the Chain Murders, were the so-called Mykonos Restaurant assassinations, which occurred in Berlin, Germany on September 17, 1992. While several opponents of the Islamic regime were gathered at the restaurant for a meeting, assassins attacked the restaurant with firearms and killed four of the attendees: Muhammad Sadegh Sharafkandi, Fattah Abdoli, Homayoun Ardalan, and Nurollah Dehkordi.The German authorities were able to arrest, indict, and convict several individuals connected to the killings and concluded, “The political leaders of Iran gave the order for the murders, for the sole purpose of staying in power. Those who issued the orders and pulled the strings were Iranian state functionaries.”
Ever since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, more than 160 Iranians in exile have been assassinated by regime operatives all over the world.
The regime considers four institutions essential for its security. These institutions are instrumental in deciding upon, organizing, and conducting assassinations and terrorist attacks, especially on foreign soil. They are the Office of the Supreme Leader, the Supreme Council of National Security (SCNS), the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and the Ministry of Intelligence (MOI). At the top of the hierarchy is the Supreme Leader and the Office of the Supreme Leader. The Office was established during the rule of Ruhollah Khomeini but was significantly developed by the incumbent Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
Thousands of people work at the Office, which supervises all government ministries (in addition to other duties). The Office has its own intelligence and counter-intelligence organizations. All decisions of importance to the regime, not least concerning regime security, must be discussed with the Supreme Leader and have his blessing. It is thus apparent that all decisions regarding assassinations and terrorist attacks must be discussed with the Supreme Leader before being set in motion.Both before and after the Supreme Leader has made a decision on a matter, it is discussed at the most important regime institution after the Office: the SCNS, which was established in 1989. One of its three main responsibilities, according to the constitution, is to “utilize the material and non-material resources of the country to confront internal and external threats.”The SCNS consists of 12 permanent members: the heads of three branches of the state, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, the Commander of the Military, the Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Minister of Intelligence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Interior, and the government official responsible for planning and budgeting affairs, as well as two representatives appointed by the Supreme Leader. The SCNS is presided over by the President of the Islamic Republic but is managed by a secretary who is directly appointed by the Supreme Leader. According to the constitution, “The decisions of the Supreme Council of National Security shall be effective after the Leader’s approval.”
All matters related to the security and foreign policy of the regime are discussed in this state body. It is thus highly unlikely for any act of assassination or terrorist attack to take place overseas without its having been discussed and approved by the SCNS.While the Supreme Leader and the SCNS have foremost responsibility for decision-making and giving the green light, the IRGC and the MOIare responsible for planning and conducting the assassinations or the terrorist attacks. The number of MOI departments and their respective responsibilities are unknown, though it is known that at least one department at the MOI is responsible for conducting assassinations. These are often accomplished in conjunction with the IRGC. The IRGC was established after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and is responsible for the protection of the Islamic regime.
The most important and well-known section of the IRGC is its external branch, the Quds Force (QF), which is responsible for spreading the revolution and the ideology of the regime abroad. The QF has, since its establishment in the 1990s, been involved in hundreds of assassinations and terrorist attacks throughout the world. Exactly how the operational responsibilities are divided between the QF and the MOI is not known. It is, however, clear that the two organizations collaborate closely on the conducting of subversive operations on foreign soil, including assassinations. As the QF is a military organization, it can be inferred that the MOI is more active in gathering and analyzing intelligence while the actual assassination is conducted by QF operatives.
The majority of QF operatives are Iranian nationals, but the QF often uses proxies in its operations. These proxies exist all over the Middle East: the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces(Hashd Shaabi), Hezbollah Hejaz in Saudi Arabia, Ansar Allah (the Houthis) in Yemen, and the Ashtar Brigades in Bahrain, to name just a few. It is thus natural for the Iranian regime to use non-Iranians in its foreign operations. One example was the Iranian attack on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) in Buenos Aires. One of the operatives was Imad Mughniyeh, a Lebanese national and a main leader of Hezbollah. Tehran makes use of foreign, non-Iranian operatives not only for terrorist operations, but also to conduct espionage. In 2019, for instance, the Swedish Security Police, Säkerhetspolisen, arrested an Iraqi national on suspicion of conducting espionage against Iranian opponents of the Islamic regime. In December 2019, the suspect was convicted of espionage and given a prison term of 2.5 years.
Using diplomats over the years, Iran has made extensive use of its diplomatic arm with regard to subversive activities like espionage, assassinations, and terrorist plots. The first known assassination in which regime diplomats were involved was the murder of Ali Akbar Tabatabaei in the summer of 1980. As noted above, Tabatabaei was assassinated by an African American Muslim convert, Dawud Salahuddin. Salahuddin had extensive contacts among Iranian revolutionaries prior to the downfall of the Shah, but it was during his employment as a security guard at the Iranian Interest Section of the Algerian Embassy that he was recruited as an assassin. The details of his recruitment are still unclear, but it is highly likely that diplomats at the Interest Section had a role in the recruitment.
As Iranian subversive operations in the region as well as in Europe increased during the 1990s, so did illegal activities by Iranian embassies throughout the world. In 1992, two Iranian employees at the Iranian embassy in London were expelled for planning a plot to assassinate Salman Rushdie. The same year, the Mykonos assassinations took place in Berlin. One of the individuals convicted of the attack was Kazem Darabi, who had close contact with employees of the Iranian embassy in Germany.Two years later, in 1994, the heinous AMIA attack was conducted, which killed close to 100 people. In 2004, Alberto Nisman was appointed Special Prosecutor in charge of the AMIA bombing investigation. He stated in a report that the Third Secretary of the Iranian embassy in Argentina, Ahmad Reza Asghari, was directly involved in the decision to attack AMIA. Nisman concluded that the AMIA attack “was carried out by the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah at the behest of the highest authorities in the Iranian government, and with local assistance from Iranian diplomats who were accredited in Argentina.”
In 1996, Dr. Reza Mazlouman, who later changed his name to Kourosh Aryamanesh, was assassinated in his home in Paris. He was a professor of criminology prior to the Islamic Revolution and Deputy Minister of Education during the reign of the Shah. In exile, he became a prominent opponent of both Islam and the Islamic Republic. One Ahmad Jeyhooni, a resident of Germany, was convicted by the French court for aiding the assassins. German intelligence revealed that Jeyhooni had contacts among operatives of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence who were employed at the Iranian embassy in Bonn. Jeyhooni also had contacts with other diplomats at the embassy, including the Cultural and Consular Affairs Attaché and the Secretary of Consular Affairs.
Though the above examples are old, they show a pattern that illustrates how the Islamic regime goes about conducting assassinations. It is a pattern the regime has repeated in recent times. In 2012, nationals from Kenya, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Great Britain were to be targeted in planned bombings in Nairobi. The culprits, Ahmad Abolfathi Muhammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi, members of the QF, were initially convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The High Court reduced their sentences to 15 years, and the Court of Appeal ultimately set the men free. The interesting element of the case is that the former Iranian ambassador to Kenya, Hadi Farajvand, was under investigation for trying to illegally secure the release of the two men by bribing individuals from the Kenyan Interior Ministry. It would later be shown that the individuals were not from the Interior Ministry and had defrauded the ambassador for an unknown amount of money. Four years after this plot, in 2016, two other Iranian nationals in Kenya were deported after being arrested in an Iranian diplomatic car outside the Israeli embassy while allegedly conspiring on a plot.In 2013, two Iranian diplomats in Bosnia and Herzegovina were declared persona non grata after being accused of membership in the MOI and having links to terrorism. They were both expelled from the country.
The most high-profile terrorist plot to be connected to an Iranian embassy in recent years was in 2018, when Assadollah Assadi, a member of the MOI and the Third Secretary of the Iranian embassy in Austria, was arrested in Germany and extradited to Belgium on charges of having provided an Iranian couple with explosives with which to bomb an Iranian exile gathering in Paris. Assadi’s trial started in Belgium on November 27, 2021.
Also in 2018, the Dutch government ousted two Iranian diplomats from the Netherlands. Though the Dutch intelligence service did not provide any information on the reasons for the deportations, it is safe to state that the two diplomats were involved at a high level in operations that were deemed by the Dutch government to be a threat to national security. This is particularly likely in light of two assassinations of Iranian opponents of the Islamic regime that took place in 2015 and 2017 in the Netherlands. Incumbent Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stefan Blok stated with regard to these killings that there are “strong indications that Iran was involved in the assassinations of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin.”
The latest Iranian scandal took place in Denmark. In June 2020, an Iranian man with Norwegian citizenship was convicted and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment after being arrested for espionage and complicity to commit murder. The central crime was committed against an Iranian opposition figure in Denmark. The offender had close connections to the Iranian embassy in Oslo, and there is a strong probability that he received his orders from that embassy. In short: Iranian embassies, diplomats, and employees are highly active in their target countries in the areas of espionage, the plotting of assassinations and terror attacks, and the conducting of those attacks.