09:08 GMT13 August 2020
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    During his major Iran speech, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Tehran of conducting “assassination operations” in Europe, surprising both security experts and Iranian emigrants.

    Speaking on May 21 at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, Pompeo said some pretty strange things in his speech, "A New Iran Strategy."

    "Today, the Iranian Quds Force conducts covert assassination operations in the heart of Europe," he said nonchalantly, between calling out Iran's Taliban support in Afghanistan, support for Yemen's Houthis and the holding of US citizens hostage.

    He never elaborated on that passage.

    These are some strange accusations, considering that for the last two decades, there have been no assassinations in Europe linked to Tehran in any way. As the Guardian points out, the last people whose violent death was in any way connected to Iran were Shapour Bakhtiar, the former Persian prime minister under the Shah, who was assassinated in France in 1991, and four Iranian Kurdish dissidents who were shot in Berlin the next year.

    There was also a bombing of a bus with Israeli tourists in Bulgaria in 2012, but it was Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia, that was blamed for the incident. The former president of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, was ordered late last year to stand trial for allegedly helping cover up Iran's alleged role in the 1994 Jewish center bombing that killed 85 people in the country. That connection has never been proven.

    What were you talking about, Mr. Pompeo?

    As per the Guardian, other journalists were also pretty puzzled by the statements and turned to Heather Nauert, the department's spokesperson, for comments. That didn't help.

    "He has information and access to information that I do not," she said during a press briefing on May 22. "I am not able to comment on that in particular but I can tell the secretary has assured me that there is a basis for that point in his speech and he stands firmly behind that."

    US diplomats specializing in Iran were equally surprised by Pompeo's allegations.

    The claim was also questioned by Iraj Mesdaghi, a Sweden-based Iranian political activist who was jailed in Iran for a decade between 1981 and 1991.

    "There is no evidence to back the claim that currently they are carrying out such operations in Europe," he said pointing out that the shooting of Kurdish dissidents in Berlin was never blamed on Quds Force or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in general.

    There was one case worth pointing out, though: last year, Ahmad Mola Nissi, an Iranian dissident, was killed in the Hague. He was a leader of an Iranian separatist group, whose armed wing was responsible for several attacks in Iran.

    But, according to the Guardian, the Dutch investigation has not publicly blamed the IRGC. If that is what Pompeo was talking about, then he just disclosed previously classified information.

    "There is no public evidence to weigh these claims and European officials have been silent," says Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

    According to Mesdaghi, Tehran gave up on the idea of assassinating people after a 1997 court case on the Berlin shooting made it clear the EU would not tolerate the practice.

    "It would be very unusual for Iran to have carried out his killing, given the relationship they have with Europe now and the fact that Nissi was not influential, nor important enough," he said.


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