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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 January 2019

EU has finally rebuked Tehran for aggression

Alleged assassination attempts have shone a light on Tehran's threat

Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok speaking with journalists in the parliament in The Hague, on January 8. Bart Maat / AFP
Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok speaking with journalists in the parliament in The Hague, on January 8. Bart Maat / AFP

The support the European Union has continued to give Iran, in the face of the regime’s regional meddling, ballistic missiles programme and involvement in Syria and Yemen, has long caused consternation in Washington and Arab capitals.

Ever since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the flawed 2015 nuclear deal in May and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran, European powers have scrambled to save the deal, even proposing a financial system to bypass US sanctions. Given that it impeded a united front against Iranian aggression, that approach was foolhardy.

And now, as more and more allegations about Iranian activities on European soil emerge, the bloc is finally taking notice. On Wednesday, the EU imposed sanctions on two Iranian individuals and an agency, sending a powerful message that Iran’s careless disregard for the sovereignty of other nations will not be tolerated.

Put simply, sanctions do not work in isolation – but they are the only way to bring Iran’s nefarious regime to bear. For too long, the EU has shielded Tehran as regional powers and the US pointed out its aggression. No more.

On Tuesday, EU ministers agreed the sanctions – their first since the nuclear deal was signed – citing Iran’s alleged role in assassination plots in Europe. Stef Blok, Dutch foreign minister, made the case in a letter, following accusations that two Dutch nationals of Iranian descent had been killed in the Netherlands in 2015 and 2017. “Targeted sanctions and a clear message underline that this behaviour is unacceptable and needs to stop immediately,” Mr Blok subsequently tweeted.

Officials of several nations – including Britain, Denmark and Germany – have reportedly warned Iran of the same and further sanctions could be coming, while France has already implemented similar measures, after its authorities foiled a bomb plot targeting an exiled opposition group rally in Paris in June. Meanwhile, hundreds of European citizens languish in Iranian prisons, among them Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British charity worker who recently reached her 1,000th day in Iranian custody.

The Iranian economy is already buckling under the weight of US sanctions on banking and oil. The EU's actions will crank up the pressure. More importantly, they show Tehran that it can no longer rely on a compliant Europe.

The nuclear deal – which did not address Iran’s ballistic missile programme and contained a sunset clause after which Tehran could resume its proliferation – is now under immense pressure. So too is the Iranian regime. For the sake of Iran's people, it is vital that it wakes up to a clear reality: that meddling on the soil of sovereign nations will not be tolerated.

Updated: January 9, 2019 04:50 PM

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