The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) received another blow yesterday, as the European Union announced additional sanctions against parts of the Iranian Intelligence Service.
“Very encouraging that (the) EU has just agreed on new targeted sanctions against Iran in response to hostile activities and plots being planned and perpetrated in Europe, including Denmark,” said Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen.
These sanctions are in response to the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the leader of a Danish branch of the Iranian dissidents, known as the Arab Struggle Movement.
The arrest resulted in a shutdown of bridges and ferries to Sweden in September. Another plot in France last year was thwarted and its target was a gathering of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of resistance groups led by Maryam Rajavi. The largest member of the organization is the PMOI/MEK.
The NCRI called the sanctions a positive step, but also noted that it was insufficient to address the regime’s actions. They have called on the EU to expel all of Iran’s MOIS agents, particularly those hiding in diplomatic positions.
“Although the EU may have prioritized the nuclear issues and pushed the ballistic missile issues to the side, it would be much more prudent to take a stand now. If the EU continues to express no concern for Iran’s ballistic missile program, it is going to guarantee that it was a weaker negotiation standpoint,” said an NCRI statement published on January 9. “The Iranian regime…is focused on survival by any means and it is an untrustworthy and deceptive player.”
Assassination Attempt Thwarted by Danish Authorities
In September 2018, the national security and intelligence agency of Denmark announced that it had arrested an Iranian man with Norwegian citizenship who was charged with “establishing an Iranian intelligence operation” that planned the assassination attempt.
“The assessment is that an Iranian intelligence agency has planned an assassination on Danish soil. This is completely unacceptable. In fact, the gravity of the matter is difficult to describe. That has been made crystal clear to the Iranian ambassador,” said Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen in September.
He also indicated that he would be discussing further actions against Iran with other EU members. The announcement of sanctions appears to imply that the EU is moving in a direction to address Iran’s influence and intelligence operations on European soil.
The NCRI has repeatedly called for both the MOIS and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to be placed on sanctions lists in totality. They also noted that the regime has exploited the European appeasement policy to expand its terrorist operations into Europe. The Iranian embassies have been at the center of these activities, with diplomats acting in key roles in plots that range throughout Europe.
The Iranian regime’s ambassador and another diplomat as well one diplomat being expelled from France and two more being expelled from the Netherlands.
Sanctions Do Not Address Divided Policy
The bigger issue, however, is the fact that the European Union is conflicted. They are trying to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and it makes reining in Iran difficult. The European Commission backed Denmark’s accusation but urged member states not to let their actions impact the JCPOA.
The U.S. pulled out of the JCPOA in May, and the Trump administration has focused on cracking down on Iran in a number of ways, most notably its revenue from oil and energy exports. Leaders from the U.S. have also warned the EU against maintaining its trade agreements with the Iranian regime, but the EU is working on a mechanism to avoid American sanctions. Many European countries have opted to pull out of Iran rather than risk being caught in U.S. sanctions.