Iranian Diplomats Under Fire, Again

under fire First Beirut, Now Yemen

Yes, Rouhani’s smile diplomacy is very effective. But that isn’t stopping Tehran’s longstanding link with terrorism from taking more and more lives – including Iranian diplomats’ lives.

Since late November, Beirut has been rocked by a series of at least four terrorist bombings against Iran directly – its embassy – and indirectly through Hezbollah “territory.”

Beirut is the tip of the iceberg: A few thousand miles away, an Iranian diplomat was recently killed in Yemen by a “terrorist group”. Frustrated, Tehran has linked all the terrorist attacks to Al-Qaeda and Saudi Arabia (and intends to lodge a formal complaint against Riyadh for its alleged involvement).

This cycle of violence seems far from over.

Zarif Attacks

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif attempts to refocus the blame. Iran, he said, was ready to “reveal evidence of sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East” – specifically in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.

As for the attack in Yemen, he emphasized that the foreign ministry is putting a lot of pressure – “successfully” – on Yemen to “bring the assassins to justice“.

Zarif also dropped a bomb of his own at Davos by redefining the strength of Tehran’s bond with Hezbollah – none. Not only did he deny “sending” Hezbollah to Syria, he added that it was “preposterous to suggest that Tehran was supporting extremist groups fighting in Syria”.


Iranians understand terrorism very well – particularly the value of diplomats as high-profile victims. Their diplomats in hot-spot countries understand this as well, and probably wish they would get transfer orders ASAP. They’re at the mercy of Zarif, who would like to have it both ways but won’t be allowed to do so – neither by the Syrian opposition, nor by the Al-Qaeda splinter groups.

That’s the price of riding the tiger. Poor Iranian diplomats.

Tehran’s Zigzag Diplomacy Pays Off

zigzag Zigzaging Away

While Tehran shouted foul over the threat of added sanctions, it was trying to thread every single loophole it could find from day one: continued construction at the heavy-water plant at Arak (November 27th – Zarif), “legitimate” threats of increasing Uranium enrichment to 20% levels (December 18th – Zarif), plans to install new centrifuges for Uranium enrichment (December 27th – Salehi), an upcoming bill in the Majlis that will “forced” enrichment to 60% levels (December 28th – Majlis), a threat to build a bomb just to “put down Israel” (January 6th – Nabavian) etc… In the meantime, Supreme Leader Khamenei called the US “Satan”, adding that the nuclear negotiations were a sign of the “enmity of America”, pitting the US squarely against “Iran, Iranians, Islam and Muslims”. Statements like these are classic reminders of Khamenei’s pre-Rouhani days in which the US was deemed the epitome of the “arrogant powers”, the leader of a “global dictatorship” and a “tyranny of a corrupt and evil network”. Needless to say, these plans and threats did not help to increase levels of confidence between the P5+1 and Tehran. But Tehran is smart enough to understand that confidence is not a goal in itself. It is a double-edged sword tactic: Building confidence creates the right atmosphere to help close a deal but a lack of confidence can intimidate the West in giving up more in order to salvage the deal.


Where There is a Will…

In his famous “this century is the century of Islam” speech from January 2012, Khamenei shed some insight into his strategy  on diplomacy: “The battle is a battle of wills. Any side whose will is stronger has the upper hand“. This concept was echoed by none other than President Rouhani himself in a statement reminiscent of Ahmadinejad summing up the Geneva deal as a sign that the world powers had “surrendered to the Iranian nation’s will“. There’s that word again, “will”. The following uproar by the West forced Rouhani to delete his tweet and replace it with a more neutral and diplomatic tweet about “mutual political will” by the US and Tehran to “rapidly solve the nuclear issue”. Mediators were quick to portray the “surrender” tweet as necessary rhetoric aimed to appease hardliners in Tehran and its removal as proof or Rouhani’s real determination to appease the West. Perhaps the opposite is truer: the “surrender” tweet was a glimpse at the real determination of Rouhani to channel the all-powerful Iranian “will” while its deletion was simply rhetoric necessary to appease the West. Did Iran’s will succeed? In the meantime, the answer is a resounding “yes” judging from the facts that the nuclear deal is definitely sweeter on Iran than on the P5+1, that President Obama has vowed to veto any added sanctions and that EU Chief Ashton is planning a trip to Tehran in the coming weeks. This is classic Iranian diplomacy at its most effective: smile and threaten alternatively while strengthening its will to enhance Iran’s sphere of influence in the future.

Earlier articles:

Rise in Iranian Passport Forgery Arrests


Iranian citizens travelling with forged foreign passports supplied by Iranian nationals are being caught all over the world. Who knows, maybe my blog had something to do with this (I believe I was one of the first to focus on the issue).

For instance, just last week a Syrian woman was apprehended at Kuwait International Airport for travelling under a Portuguese passport supplied by an Iranian forger in Tehran, who had flown in on the same flight but somehow had slipped through – Kuwaiti police went on a manhunt which has been unsuccessful to date.

And two weeks ago, an Iranian man identified as “Ramezani” was detained in Taiwan for travelling under a fake Italian passport supplied in Iran.

We haven’t heard anything to indicate that Tehran is especially perturbed by the behavior of its nationals when it comes to the sanctity of diplomacy and its tools. No big surprise there, in view of the abundance of cases in which the Iranian government has been involved.

Cases in point:

  • In November, three Iranians were apprehended in Brunei for travelling under forged Cypriot passports supplied in Thailand by an Iranian forger known only as “Abdul” who may be connected to master Iranian forger Seyed Paknejad who was caught in Kuala Lumpur  in August ( Paknejad supplied Iranian terrorists with forged passports in Thailand which were discovered following the botched attempt in Bangkok in February 2012).
  • In June, three Iranians were arrested in Cairo for travelling under Turkish passports – police are investigating whether the three were part of the “Iranian Interference” that the Egyptians have been protesting against lately.
  • In April, an Iranian national travelling under an Israeli passport was detained after suspiciously casing the Israeli embassy in Kathmandu – a popular tourist destination for Israeli youths. He is suspected of being associated to the Al Qods force and was planning a terrorist attack similar to the attacks on Israeli nationals in India, Thailand, Georgia and Bulgaria last year.

No wonder Tehran’s maintaining its silence…

With Friends Like These – Iranian ME Diplomacy (part 3)


Bahrain Needs “Concrete Steps”

Following the Geneva deal in November, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif embarked on his “charm offensive” road trip in the region. The tour to Kuwait, Oman and Qatar finally included the UAE (“what unites us is far greater than our minor differences“) but significantly excluded Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa admitted on December 7th that, although there has been a “change in Iranian language”, there still is no “clear change of policy”. He added that Bahrain’s fears of Iranian “interferences with internal affairs and supporting terrorist groups” in the Gulf countries are alive and that he is still waiting for “concrete steps” by Tehran to prove that the change in diplomacy is real.

Within three weeks, Al Khalifa witnessed concrete steps – in the opposite direction: Bahraini authorities foiled Iranian-backed attempts of terror and subversion after discovering caches of explosives (“50 Iranian-made hand bombs” and “295 commercial detonators on which was written ‘made in Syria'”) and arresting 13 people in the process.

Riyadh Ready to Buy a Bomb

Saudi Arabia adopted a much more direct approach:

  • Disillusioned by the nuclear deal which the Saudis felt was inadequate to force Tehran’s program to remain peaceful, they renewed their search to buy their own nuclear bomb from Pakistan. Worried about Iran getting a bomb? Now, worry about two warring neighbors with nuclear bombs.
  • Disillusioned by the UN’s lack of control in Syria and Iran, the Saudis declined a seat in the UN Security Council and are suspected of supporting Al Qaeda’s operations in Syria and Lebanon to counter Hezbollah and Iran – including bombing the Iranian embassy in Beirut.

 Beyond The Gulf…

Apropos: Remember the retaliating bombing by the Hezbollah in Beirut last week that killed former Finance Minister Mohamad Chatah, a strong critic of Iran’s involvement in Lebanon and in Syria? Ironically (or not), he died only a week after sending an open letter to President Hassan Rouhani requesting him to stop Iranian interference, directly or through Hezbollah, in Lebanon and in Syria.

Anyway: like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Egypt suffered in the past from Iranian-backed spy rings and is fearful of an Islamic Revolution marshaled by Tehran.

Perhaps that’s why Egypt’s Tourist Minister closed Egypt’s gates to Iranian tourists for “reasons related to national security” and cancelled all flights to and from Tehran.

The Egyptians must know what they’re doing on this.