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Much has been written about the broader significance of this month’s assassination of Salman Rushdie, for which a Muslim religious fanatic was charged with attempted murder, notes Bret Stephens in an op-ed for The New York Times.
About these and others, not enough has been said about the evil nature of the regime that can be assumed to have inspired the deed and many others like it or about how wise it is, in this context, to try to reach a nuclear agreement with that regime.
Thus, the Islamic Republic of Iran did not claim responsibility for the assassination attempt on Rushdie. But the fatwa [decret religios – n.trad.] of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 against him for the “Satanic Verses” remains valid.
And in 2007 Rushdie said that every February 14 he receives “a sort of Valentine’s Day card” from Iran reminding him of the promise to be killed.
Specifically, this month’s attack was described by Iranian state media as “divine revenge”, notes nytimes.com
Currently, Tehran is not even discreet about other similar attacks committed on American or European soil against its other enemies, be they men of letters or politicians.
The Justice Department announced on August 10 that it had indicted Shahram Poursafi, a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, for attempting to organize the assassination of former presidential national security adviser John Bolton. Axios’ Mike Allen wrote the same day that Iran offered a $1 million reward for the assassination of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In July the target was Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American journalist and human rights activist whose Brooklyn home was visited last month by a man who was later arrested in his car with a fully loaded AK-47 . The regime was also behind an earlier elaborate attempt to kidnap Alinejad.
Last year, a Belgian court convicted the Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, posted in Vienna, along with three Belgian accomplices of Iranian origin, for a plot to blow up a meeting of Iranian opposition figures in 2018 in Paris. Belgium’s parliament ratified a prisoner exchange treaty with Iran in July after Tehran arrested a Belgian citizen in Iran on espionage charges, although a Belgian court later banned a prisoner exchange.
Also last year, Iranian-American author Roya Hakakian revealed that she had been warned by the FBI that she too had become a target of Iranian agents in the US. Hakakian is the author of The Assassins of the Palace of Perugia, a shocking account of the 1992 assassination of four Iranian dissidents in Berlin’s Mykonos restaurant and the legal saga that followed.
Norwegian media revealed in November that a former first secretary of the Iranian embassy in Oslo is accused by authorities of masterminding a 1993 assassination attempt against William Nygaard, the Norwegian publisher of Rushdie’s work. In 2020, Iran executed journalist and dissident Ruhollah Zam, after luring him to Iraq, from where he was handed over to Tehran.
In the same year, Iran kidnapped Jamshid Sharmahd, a German citizen living in California, from Dubai. Now he is in real danger of being executed. In 2018, Denmark thwarted an Iranian intelligence plot to assassinate a dissident there. In 2011, Iranian agents planned to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US by blowing up the Cafe Milano in Washington.
“The assassination must go ahead, even if doing so would result in numerous casualties,” the plot’s mastermind told his accomplices, according to court documents.
The point of this deliberately shortened list is that the stabbing attack on Rushdie, even if it was only inspired and not organized by Tehran, is not unique. On the contrary, it is more than typical.
Thus, “The Islamic Republic has been waging a campaign of assassinations, kidnappings and intimidation against opponents since its earliest days. Those who argue that these actions are merely responses to the harm done to Iran – for example by the Trump administration’s assassination of Revolutionary Guards General Qassim Suleimani in 2020 – confuse cause with effect. Suleimani was killed after spending his entire career killing others, including,” the Pentagon claims, and hundreds of Americans.
This begs the question, How does all this influence the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program? The general consensus is that not at all: Iran’s history of bigotry and murder would have nothing to do with its willingness to limit its nuclear ambitions in exchange for economic incentives.
But this opinion ignores two essential arguments.
-First of all, what signal does the fact that we will do nothing to punish him, and even continue to negotiate with him, even if he tries to assassinate Americans on our own territory, including former dignitaries, send to Tehran? The answer is: weakness. It’s a perception that the Biden administration could hardly afford, but also an incentive for new Iranian provocations.
-Secondly, what do Iran’s criminal tentacles reveal to us about the character of its regime? The answer is: he doesn’t stop at a red light. Supporters of an agreement can tell themselves that it will contain safeguards to verify compliance. But Iran has found ways to cheat on other occasions, and the lifting of sanctions will provide it with a large financial windfall that it will immediately put to work for destructive purposes.
Making a deal with Iran now is about as wise as making a new arms control treaty with Vladimir Putin.
After the attack on Rushdie, writers, activists and celebrities took a stand in defense of free speech. A good thing, in itself. But it will never be enough, not until the free world has found the courage to stand up to this odious regime that has caused such horror,” notes Bret Stephens.