Turkish Daily Sabah website on Thursday, February 11, reported that authorities have detained an Iranian diplomat Mohammad Reza Naderzadeh, 43, for involvement in the murder of Iranian dissident Massoud Molavi Vardanjani in November 2019.
Naderzadeh as a staff member of the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul had forged travel documents for Ali Esfandiari, who had masterminded the assassination of Massoud Molavi and then fled to Iran.
Molavi was a “former intelligence operative for Iran before he moved to Turkey and launched a social media crusade to expose corruption involving the Iranian administration and the Quds Force, a subsidiary of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC),” the Turkish website wrote.
Investigating the murder, Turkish security forces revealed that Esfanjani met Molavi’s killer Abdulvahhab Koçak on the murder day. Koçak is also lieutenant of fugitive Iranian drug lord Naji Sharifi Zindashti.
Esfanjani and Koçak met in a shopping mall and talked for about half an hour. Then, Esfanjani met Molavi and the two started walking on the street when Koçak approached from behind and fired 11 shots at Vardanjani.
“The investigation also shows Abdulvahhab Koçak – who was later captured by police – hid out in a residence owned by Naji Sharifi Zindashti after killing Vardanjani. Koçak’s brother Ali was also a suspect in the Istanbul murder of Saeed Karimian, owner of a Persian-language TV station,” Daily Sabah added.
Zindashti was also implicated in the disappearance of Habib Chaab, another Iranian dissident who disappeared in October 2020. Chaab, who had been living in exile in Sweden, was allegedly lured to Istanbul by Iranian intelligence and was smuggled into Iran.
“Files show how Iranian dissident Habib Chaab was kidnapped in Turkey after ‘honeytrap by Iran,’” reported Sky News on December 17, 2020. “Sky News has been given exclusive access to Turkish counter-terrorism files which show how Iranian opposition activist Habib Chaab was lured into the trap and smuggled back into Iran.”
The above-mentioned instances are the tip of the iceberg, showing the Iranian government’s exploitation of diplomatic coverage to implement terror attacks in other countries.
Last week, a court in Antwerp, Belgium, sentenced a senior Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi to 20 years in prison for bombing against the Free Iran 2018 gathering hosted by the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Investigations carried out by the European prosecutors revealed that Assadi had transferred 1lb of TATP explosive material and detonate device on a civil airport under diplomatic status.
He later traveled to Luxembourg and delivered the bomb and instructions to operatives. They had planned to target the NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi. However, the operation was foiled at the last moment.
During their investigation, European law enforcement discovered an expanded network of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) on European soil. In his green booklet, Assadi had written around 300 notes, including receipts and appointment places. The NCRI had already disclosed that Assadi was the head of Iran’s intelligence station in Europe.
Back in March 2018, Albanian authorities foiled another plot orchestrated by the Iranian embassy in Tirana. Terrorists wanted to blow up the opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) gathering marking Nowruz, the new Persian year. Following the intelligence services’ investigation, the government expelled Iranian ambassador Gholamhossein Mohammad-Nia and his first deputy Mostafa Roudaki for involving the plot.
Mohammad-Nia, who was expelled, is a close figure to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The ‘ambassador’ was also a member of Iran’s negotiating team during talks that led to the Iran 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
In the past 42 years, Iran’s Foreign Ministry was directly involved in terrorism. Tehran’s embassies in Baghdad and Kabul purged nationalists those who were opposing the ayatollahs’ meddling in their countries’ affairs. Tehran’s new ambassador to Houthis-controlled Sana Hassan Irlu was one of former IRGC Quds Force Qassem Soleimani’s closest associates. Moreover, Iraj Masjedi, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, and his predecessors, all were high-ranking commanders in the Quds Force.
This is time to end Iranian officials’ exploitation of diplomatic coverages for terrorism, dissidents say. Iran’s Foreign Ministry, in fact, plays the role of a broker to make advantages for the government’s hostage-taking operations. However, giving concessions to the Iranian government only emboldens it to take more hostages and jeopardize global peace and security by terrorism and nuclear extortions.