A former senior intelligence officer at Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence once described to me Tehran’s diplomatic style with the West as “tractor-trailer diplomacy.”
“Give us what we demand, or we’ll blow up something of yours with a truck-full of explosives, or take a hostage, or whatever else it might take,” said the former officer, now a defector living in Germany. Then he went on to list the instances where the West had relented against Iran’s misconduct, dropped charges, deported individuals accused or guilty of crimes in Europe to the custody of Iran — in essence, rewarded the rogue behavior.
Which is how Iran successfully conducted “tractor-trailer diplomacy” again this week. Last July, Iranian officials arrested Clotilde Reiss, a young French student in Tehran who subsequently confessed, like so many other prisoners, to charges of espionage. From the staggering heap of spies caught in Iran since June 2009 — whose numbers far surpass the amount of intelligence that could possibly exist for gathering — the French spy was picked to be freed. Her two five-year sentences were commuted for the price of three billion rials and one man. The relatives of Reiss supplied the three billion, and President Sarkozy supplied the man: Ali Vakili Rad — the assassin of Iran’s former prime minister, Shapour Bakhtiar.
If the mark of Europe’s great civilization is its rule of law, Tehran’s clerics have successfully exposed, time and again, the many imperfections of that civilization by forcing Europe to break that rule by allowing them to be above it. In a September 2009 interview, when asked if he would ever consider releasing Prime Minister Bakhtiar’s assassin to Iran, Sarkozy cast an indignant look at his interviewer and replied adamantly: “No!” in rejection of what he called “blackmail.”
Less than a year later, the presidential “no” turned into “yes,” blackmail mere bartering, and Sarkozy, Europe’s most staunch opponent of Iran, relented, as have so many of his predecessors in France and elsewhere since 1979. François Mitterrand, citing “national interest” had also released the Lebanese assassin who first attempted to kill Prime Minister Bakhtiar in 1981. When the beloved leader of Iran’s Democratic Party of Kurdistan and two of his deputies were assassinated in Vienna in 1989, the Austrian police worked tirelessly to finally arrest one of the killers, only to watch Austrian politicians escort their prisoner to the airport to return him to Tehran. Just as Germany, in December 2008, deported two prisoners sentenced to life on charges of a similar assassination within weeks after Iran released another “spy,” a German tourist named Donald Klein, who had been arrested while fishing in Iranian waters. And the list goes on.
Scores of Iranian exiles have been killed throughout Europe, yet Europe, in defiance of the US, or in loyalty to its own trade interests, has allowed Iran to breathe new life into the cliché “get away with murder.”
Is there any wonder, then, why Europe’s Middle Eastern immigrants resist assimilation? Over and over again, Europe has shown that not all murders are equally punishable and that some victims are more expendable than others. If the laws that are to be absolute bend and make exceptions for one group, for Iranians in these cases, why should any group of newcomers in Europe ever trust those laws or swear allegiance to those constitutions?