Why Do Iranian Diplomats Get Expelled?
The intensity of tensions in the diplomatic relations of the Islamic Republic of Iran can be fully grasped if one looks at the number of countries which cut relations with the Iranian regime: eleven countries including Somalia, Comoros, Djibouti, Maldives, Sudan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, Canada, and the USA.
I did not include Israel to this list as they have not had any diplomatic relations since the Islamic revolution of 1979. One can also add a great number of countries which downgraded their relations with Iran to a lower level of bilateral representatives. This downgrade signals the low quality of bilateral relations on the international scene.
Looking at the above-mentioned numbers, one can claim with high confidence that the Islamic Republic of Iran holds a record in this matter. There is no example of another country suffering from such a “diplomatic crisis”.
The crisis, nevertheless, does not end here. Some of the relations still in place do not enjoy the warmth that expected of them. For example, following the end of the French ambassador’s term in Tehran and his return to France, Paris has not announced or sent its new ambassador to Iran for months. The main reason for such a delay is presumed to be related to the arrest of an Iranian diplomat who had hired a couple to set a bomb in MEK’s assembly in Paris. The Austrian government, where this diplomat was based, waived his diplomatic immunity and he is now in custody in Belgium.
As far as the author remembers from his service, there have been several cases of Iranian diplomats getting expelled by different countries. But the detainment of an Iranian diplomat receiving Tehran’s silence is something unprecedented. Countries usually react quickly to their citizens being detained in other countries, let alone their diplomatic officials. Thus, Tehran’s silence on this matter is very unusual and questionable.
The Sequence of Iranian Diplomats’ Expulsions
As said above, to understand the diplomatic crisis in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign policy, take heed on the record number of countries having severed their relations with Iran, from small to large countries, Muslim or non-Muslim nations, neighboring or far away. In the most recent addition to the list, the relations with European countries have gone south since mid-2018. Based on the conventions of the international relations, even the expulsion of the lowest ranking diplomats shows serious bilateral tensions between two nations. Now imagine that there have been a few arrests of Iranian diplomats in the last six months. In the first incident, Austria waived the immunity of an Iranian diplomat so that Belgium could arrest him. The Netherlands expelled two Iranian diplomats based on the accusation of their involvement in a terrorist plot. Then, Denmark expelled another diplomat of Iran on the same charges and finally, Albania expelled two Iranian diplomats - among which the Ambassador himself - on the same pretext.
This sequence of expulsions is very significant. It has ranged from the lowest ranking diplomats to an ambassador. It is clear how important it is that an ambassador is expelled in the international norms and conventions. The reason behind every one of these expulsions is the same: terrorist plot on the European soil.
Three Possible Scenarios
The Islamic Republic has lost its bid on the nuclear deal and is under reinstated sanctions. While they rely on Europe to design a new mechanism for easing the pressure of sanctions, one might ask why Iran would plot for terrorist attacks in Europe?
To answer this question, I can think of three possible scenarios as follows:
First: the Deep State’s Agenda
According to this scenario, although the regime is under excessive pressure, it is the will of the Islamic system in Tehran to, for example, mobilize all its resources to assassin an unknown separatist activist in Europe. Accordingly, neither does the nuclear deal matter to the regime, nor they have any care for the deal they had with Europeans to stop terrorist activities in Europe following the Berlin’s Mykonos Restaurant incident in 1992.
Second: The Israeli Set-up
It is said that since Israel was against Iran’s nuclear deal from the beginning and managed to convince Trump to pull out of the deal, it has orchestrated these set-ups to convince European Union to withdraw from this deal too. To assume this scenario true, one must believe that Israel has penetrated deeply in the Foreign Ministry of Iran and planted several diplomats at Iran’s embassies.
Third: Internal Struggle Within the Regime
As there is always struggle among factions within the Islamic system of Iran, each faction keeps hold of part of the power. They often take advantage of this partial power over one another. Hence, the recent incidents at the Iranian embassies indicate that a faction within the regime – the opponents of the nuclear deal – played against the other faction – proponents of the deal in Rouhani’s government. This would, in their opinion, confront the EU with a weak Rouhani government.
After the death of the nuclear deal and the dead end for Rouhani’s government, everything has moved very fast. The sudden uprisings in late 2017 all around the country started with angry slogans against Rouhani in the city of Mashhad.
The deep state, in this possible scenario, would do anything to paralyze Rouhani’s government at the expense of riots around the country. They are optimistic that they would be able to suppress the protests – as they did in 2009 and 2017 – which would lead to the fall of Rouhani’s government, so they could form a military government of their own.
The scenarios that I enumerated above might not be proved easily, but they are not deniable at all. The crucial point here is the question posed at the beginning of this article: Why would the Islamic Republic of Iran plot terrorist activities in the last six months while it needs the EU so much?
We might find the answer in a statement by Emanuel Macron, the French president. He confirmed that the plot against MEK’s meeting in Paris was of a terrorism nature and added that “we don’t still know which faction of the regime was behind this terrorist plan.”
Such a statement by Macron gives the third possible scenario more credibility. It now makes sense how come Rouhani’s government does not seem to care for the detainment and interrogations of the so-called diplomats.
It is also fair to conclude that the internal war within Iran’s system is getting momentum.