Saudi Arabia and Iran: When it comes to exiles, the pot calls the kettle black
By James M. Dorsey
If Saudi Arabia is under pressure to give chapter and verse on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate in Istanbul, Iran risks straining relations with Europe at a time that it needs European support the most by targeting ethnic rights activists.
Mr. Khashoggi’s murder has focused attention on Saudi harassment and intimidation of dissidents as part of the kingdom’s effort to silence critical voices. The Saudi campaign had little geopolitical significance until Mr. Khashoggi’s killing.
By contrast, Iran’s long history of targeting ethnic rights activists, including Iranians of Arab descent and Kurds, has long been rooted in the Islamic republic’s belief that they enjoy the support of the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel in a bid to destabilize the country.
If Saudi Arabia haswith the killing of Mr. Khashoggi and could face sanctioning for the first time in its history, Iran, long struggling to polish its tarnished image, .
In the latest Iranian incident, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and intelligence chief Finn Borch Andersen areafter they discovered a plot to kill Danish residents associated with the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA), an Iranian Arab group.
The plot, together with at least two other incidents in Europe in the last year, complicatesafter the United States withdrew from the deal and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran despite Iran’s denials of involvement.
The alleged Danish plot came to a head when authorities in latein connection with the case. Mr. Andersen said that Norway had since who was seen taking pictures of a the Danish home of an ASMLA leader.
ASMLA strives for independence of Iran’s south-eastern oil-rich province of Khuzestan that is home to Iran’s ethnic Arab community and borders on Iraq at the head of the Gulf.
Two other groups, the Islamic State and the Ahvaz National Resistance, claimed responsibility in September for anin which 29 people were killed and 70 others wounded.
Iranian officials blamed the United States and its allies, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel for the attack.
The Danish plot followed the. Shot dead on a street in The Hague, Mr. Mola Nissi died the violent life he was alleged to have lived.
A 52-year-old refugee living in the Netherlands since 2005, was believed to have beenin 2005, 2006 and 2013 on oil facilities, the office of the Khuzestan governor, other government offices, and banks.
Together with Habib Jaber al-Ahvazi also known as Abo Naheth, another ASMLA activist, Mr. Mola Nissi focussed in recent years on media activities and fund raising, at times creating footage of alleged attacks involving gas cylinder explosions to attract Saudi funding, according to Iranian activists.
Mr. Mola Nissi was killed as he was preparing to establish a television station backed by Saudi-trained personnel and funding that would target Khuzestan.
The Netherlands has emerged in recent years as a hub for Iranian activists alongside Britain.
A group of exile Iranian academics and political activists, led by The Hague-based social scientist Damon Golriz, announced in September the creation of a group that intends to campaign for a liberal democracy in Iran under the auspices of Reza Pahlavi, the son of the ousted Shah of Iran who lives in the United States.
Compounding the fallout of Iran’s targeting of activists, is last month’s expulsion by France of an Iranian diplomat accused of being part of a plot to bomb a rally in Paris organized by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, a Saudi-backed Iranian exile group that calls for regime change in Tehran. The diplomat was among six people.
The Mujahedeen enjoy the support of prominent Western politicians like US President Donald J. Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, and Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal. Mr. Giuliani addressed the targeted rally.
U.S. officials sayin March.
Support for the Mujahedeen has figured prominently in broadcasts.
The Guardian reported that Saud al-Qahtani, Prince Mohammed’s menacing information czar who was, was among the station’s main funders.
“I can say that Iran International TV has turned into a platform … for ethnic partisanship and sectarianism,” The Guardian quoted a source as saying.
The Danish, French and Dutch incidents suggest that Iran takes serious indications that Saudi Arabia is.
Iran has been the target in the past year of various insurgent groups believed to have Saudi support, sparking repeated clashes with Iranian security forces and the interception of Kurdish, Baloch and other ethnic rebels.
As the United States prepared to next week impose a new round of sanctions against Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used the Iranian attacks in Europe to weaken European rejection of the US move.
“For nearly 40 years, Europe has been the target of Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks.to peace and security,” Mr. Pompeo tweeted.
Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the and just published podcast. James is the author of blog, a with the same title and a co-authored volume, as well as