Beyond the pale: Iranian regime’s pattern of depravity

People in hard hats standing amid destroyed buildings and rubble (© Alejandro Pagni/AP Images)
Rescue workers search the rubble of the Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center on July 18, 1994. (© Alejandro Pagni/AP Images)

Ever since Islamic fundamentalists overthrew Iran’s government in 1979, the world has witnessed acts of aggression against other nations and peoples — and against the Iranian people themselves. From attacks on embassies — the very symbol of diplomacy and peaceful relations between nations — to hostage-taking, the murder of exiles and flat-out terrorism, the mullahs have flouted international law and left a trail of bloodshed in their wake.

“Iran has a long history of unprovoked aggression, 40 years now, against its own people, against its neighbors, and indeed against civilization itself,” U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo says. “From murdering and torturing their own people, to killing Americans from Lebanon to Iraq, to harboring al-Qaida even today, Iran has rampaged for four decades, and sadly with too few consequences.”

Here are just a few examples.

Storming embassies

People with flags by smoking building, pushing over car (© Khalid Mohammed/AP Images)
Iran-backed protesters break into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 31, 2019. (© Khalid Mohammed/AP Images)

International law recognizes embassies as inviolable. That means a host nation may not enter them without permission and, under the Vienna Convention, must protect them “against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.”

Soon after the 1979 revolution, Iranian radicals stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The clerical regime countenanced this, and even today, hostage-takers retain positions of responsibility in Iran’s government.

Iran’s regime similarly was behind the December 31 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. General Qassem Soleimani was the chief architect. His henchmen, the leaders of Iran-backed militias in Iraq, rallied crowds outside the embassy, encouraging the attack.

Taking hostages

The Iranian regime’s hostage-taking extends beyond embassies. Ever since the 1979 hostage crisis, the regime has used people as bargaining chips to extract money or policy concessions from other governments. Foreigners who work, study or visit family in Iran are frequent targets for hostage-taking.

Poster with three photographs of Robert Levinson (© Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Images)
An FBI poster from a 2012 news conference in Washington shows a composite image of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson. (© Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Images)

Dual nationals like American-Iranian businessman Siamak Namazi and British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe are special targets of the regime’s wrath. Retired FBI agent Robert Levinson has been missing in Iran for more than 12 years. The Rewards for Justice program is offering a reward of up to $20 million for information leading to Levinson’s safe return.

Killing exiles

The Iranian regime kills its own citizens abroad in a crime spree that spans the globe.

Sometimes the targets are former political figures like exiled former Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar, killed August 6, 1991, at his home in the Paris suburbs. Or the Iranian Kurdish dissident dispatched in Vienna on July 13, 1989. Or the opposition figure murdered in Istanbul on February 20, 1996. The killings have not been limited to political opponents. Writers and other intellectuals are among the regime’s favorite targets.

Sponsoring terror

Two men looking out of open cockpit, holding gun (© Nabil Ismail/AFP via Getty Images)
Hezbollah terrorists hijacked a TWA jetliner in Athens on June 14, 1985, with 153 people on board. The hijackers killed a U.S. Marine on the plane. (© Nabil Ismail/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran’s clerical regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, even if it hides behind the proxy forces that do its dirty work. Hezbollah is notable here. In June 1985, it hijacked TWA flight 847 in Athens. Hezbollah bombings in Paris between December 1985 and June 1986 killed 12 people and wounded 200 others.

On July 18, 1994, Iran’s regime supported a Hezbollah suicide bomber who drove a van packed with explosives into the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Society building in Buenos Aires. The bombing killed 85 people, including a 5-year-old boy, and injured 300 others.

Authorities arrested an Iranian operative in July 2012, who was conducting surveillance on a synagogue in Sofia, Bulgaria.

When Pompeo says the U.S. seeks “to convince the Iranian regime to behave like a normal nation,” he means Iran should stop actions like these.