Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 September 2020

Iran's idea of diplomacy is murder plots and political vendettas

Tehran was planning to kill US ambassador to South Africa to avenge Qassem Suleimani

David Jones believes Iran's authoritarian approach, exemplified by its recent execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, should be more forcefully condemned by the UK. AFP
David Jones believes Iran's authoritarian approach, exemplified by its recent execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, should be more forcefully condemned by the UK. AFP

When Al Quds Force leader Qassem Suleimani was killed by a US strike on January 3, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to take “severe revenge”. Leaked reports revealed yesterday the extent to which the regime is willing to go to exact that revenge. US intelligence uncovered an Iranian plot to assassinate US ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks, in retaliation for Suleimani’s killing, with involvement from the Iranian embassy in Pretoria.

That government officials were plotting to take a civilian, unarmed diplomat’s life as political vendetta is concerning. Far from being an isolated incident, which the Iranian leadership will doubtless frame as an attempt to seek justice or revenge, the murder plot is in line with Iran’s long history of targeted attacks on civilians.

For instance, in 2011 the Iranian government had plotted to assassinate Adel Al Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US at the time, who is now the kingdom’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

One year ago, almost to the day, Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed an attack on an Aramco facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, disrupting financial markets worldwide. The US and Saudi Arabia, however, have found evidence that the attack was carried out by Iran, not the Houthis. While the Abqaiq incident did not claim any lives, it escalated US-Iranian tensions further, jeopardising the security of the whole region.

For the past 40 years, Tehran has relied on escalation and force rather than negotiation and diplomacy to gain leverage over western nations. This strategy has turned Iran into a pariah. The country has been on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1984 and its people have suffered from crippling economic sanctions for decades, as a result of Iran’s aggressive behaviour.

The Iranian regime since its very inception began taking foreigners and dual nationals living on its soil as prisoners in a game of hostage diplomacy. In 1979, 52 American diplomats and citizens were kidnapped for more than a year to exert pressure on their government. More recently, the latest victim of this strategy is British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The young mother is serving a five-year prison sentence on bogus charges. She risks another 10 years in jail over new charges brought against her last week of “propaganda against the state”. “I find myself hating everything in this life, including myself,” she said recounting her renewed ordeal. “There is no escape.”

Iranian government officials were plotting to take a civilian, unarmed diplomat’s life as political vendetta

Nor is there any escape for Iranians demanding a better life. Last weekend Iran executed champion wrestler Navid Afkari, after a murder confession was extracted from him under torture. Activists believe he was sentenced to death and killed, despite international outcry and pleas for clemency, as punishment for taking part in anti-government protests in 2018. The killing of the 27-year-old athlete was meant to serve as an example for others, who may have been considering speaking out against the regime. But Afkari will be remembered as an example of Iran’s injustice towards its own people.

From South Africa to the Gulf and within Iran itself, Tehran has pursued its goals with little regard to human life or security. Its actions cannot seen as isolated incidents, rather as telling signs of a regime disinterested in peace.

Updated: September 14, 2020 09:02 PM

Editor's Picks
THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
Sign up to our daily email
Most Popular