Two weeks ago, just days before the US re-imposed sanctions on the Iranian oil industry, Denmark’s government made a dramatic announcement – The country’s security services had prevented Iran from carrying out the assassination of an opposition leader on Danish soil. To foil the plot, Danish authorities had closed bridges and suspended train operations, bemusing the public. Now, Denmark’s Foreign Minister revealed why the disruption was necessary – To prevent Tehran from carrying out a brazen killing in a European state.
The global media reported the deadly Iranian scheme extensively. CNN’s Nada Bashir reported the “plot by the Iranian intelligence service to assassinate.” Some even acknowledged that the Denmark plot would place European leaders in an awkward position – The so-called E3 (UK, France and Germany) has steadfastly supported the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran, opposing Washington’s renewed sanctions in an attempt to keep the agreement alive. Yet, here they were, faced with the reality of Iran’s utter disregard for European sovereignty and standards of behaviour. In fact, the planned killing appeared to be proof of Washington’s repeated assertion that Iran is the world’s foremost supporter of terror.
The European quandary was laid bare by Rick Noack in the Washington Post, whose analysis included the opinion of an expert who contended that “this incident makes it harder for the E.U. and the E3 [Britain, France and Germany] to make their case to defend the [nuclear] deal. It puts them into an uncomfortable position.” Meanwhile, The Independent ran a headline spelling out that “Iran’s relations with Europe face fresh crisis over alleged scheme to assassinate dissident in Denmark.” Fox News’ Adam Shaw even pointed out that “Danish diplomats are now calling for sanctions on Tehran,” with tentative support from France and UK.
Yet, since the initial furore over the Danish revelation, media coverage of the Iranian assassination plot has almost disappeared entirely from column inches and airwaves. One notable exception was an Associated Press item which covered Iran’s lurid claim that Israel was behind the Danish plot in a conspiracy to poison Iran-Europe relations.
But Associated Press aside, the media focus has reverted back to American sanctions on Iran’s oil and finance industries, almost as if the Denmark plot had not happened. The New York Times’ Steve Erlanger reported just a week after the Danish announcement that Europe is busily working on a “workaround” to blunt US sanctions. As both the Financial Times and Guardian‘s Patrick Wintour explained, the European Union (EU) is hoping to establish a special purpose vehicle (SPV), which would safeguard trade with Iran’s oil and finance sectors against the effect of US sanctions. The Guardian even described it as a “reward” to Tehran for signing the JCPOA. Incredibly, just days after the Denmark revelation, Jones Hayden in Bloomberg reported that the EU is “accelerating” its work to achieve this.
All of which seems a remarkable turn of events, given that Iran has just been exposed plotting murder in the heart of Europe – It is worth adding, not for the first time. Just last month, France accused Iran of planning a bombing in Paris. Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Hezbollah killed six people in a Bulgarian resort in 2013. In other words, Iran’s leaders have shown time and again that they will not hesitate to carry out murder in Europe. The idea that the EU should continue to protect, even reward Iranian interests is at best inconsistent, at worst perverse.
Journalists and editors surely owe it to ordinary citizens to hold governments to account. They are duty-bound to shine a light on cases of government neglect, where national leaders take a clear wrong course of action. If Europe’s ongoing desire to placate and satisfy Tehran in the face of Iranian aggression on the continent itself is not a prime example of this, then what is?