Iran’s intelligence service tagged as a terror organization by exile group

The Trump administration should add Iran’s intelligence organization to the list of foreign terrorist groups in order to hold Tehran’s agents accountable for the various terrorist acts they have allegedly committed over decades, a leading Iranian opposition group said Wednesday.

Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence Services, or MOIS, whose agents operate closely with the Quds Force — the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ directorate that trains proxy forces across the globe — remains “heavily involved with terrorism” either through groups like Hezbollah or in direct operations against Tehran’s enemies, said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director for the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

“If [the U.S.] wants to fight terrorism, you designate the MOIS” as a terror organization, he said during an event Wednesday, unveiling the council’s latest assessment of Iranian intelligence activities in Europe and the West. The council’s call to add the MOIS to a State Department list that now includes al Qaeda, Hamas and the Islamic State came a day before the Trump administration’s deadline to end waivers for some of Iran’s biggest energy importers to buy Iran’s oil and natural gas.

The move, a fallout from President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, is designed to eliminate a major source of the regime’s cash and force Iran back to the bargaining table.

“We will no longer grant any exemptions,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. “We’re going to zero across the board. Our goal has been to get countries to cease importing Iranian oil altogether.”

China, India and Turkey are among the biggest consumers of Iranian oil, and it’s not clear if the U.S. threat will result in an immediate shutdown of Iranian sales. The Trump administration also recently added Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps on the official terror list — the first time an official military branch of a sovereign country had been so designated. Iran vowed to retaliate, in part by saying it now considered all U.S. forces in the region to be terrorists as well.

Mr. Jafarzadeh said that, based on the record, MOIS merits the same treatment as the IRGC.

“They are kind of two faces of the same coin,” he said. The Iranian intelligence ministry actually began as an IRCG directorate, created by Tehran in the wake of the failed 2009 overthrow of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Mr. Jafarzadeh.

Operating from its European hub in their embassy in Austria, Iranian intelligence officers have reportedly coordinated 10 separate terror plots against targets in the U.S., U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, Albania, Denmark and France, according to the council’s report.

The uptick in Iranian terror plots was clearly tied to Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, Mr. Jafarzadeh said.

“It is a clear sign of desperation. … The policy of [Iranian] appeasement had failed” and Tehran needed to pit the U.S. against its European allies who still backed the nuclear deal, he argued.

European nations expelled five Iranian diplomats for their suspected roles in planned attacks in France and Albania, the report states. In Albania, two Iranian intelligence agents were arrested and Iran’s ambassador was expelled, due to their suspected connection with a plot to bomb a Nowruz celebration in Tirana.

Assadollah Assadi, the reported MOIS station chief for Europe, was arrested in Germany and extradited to Belgium on terrorism charges related to a bombing plot against an anti- Iranian rally in Paris.

“This is not theoretical mumbo-jumbo, this is about life and death,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain Adam Ereli, who spoke alongside Mr. Jafarzadeh at Wednesday’s event in Washington.

The National Council is a Paris-based umbrella organization for Iranian exile groups that have long urged the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. Once considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, the Council has seen its influence surge in recent years, boosted by the support of such close Trump confidants at National Security Adviser John R. Bolton and presidential counsel Rudolph W. Giuliani.

(By Carlo Muñoz | The Washington Times, May 2, 2019)