Stephen Harper and western dignitaries terror targets

(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)

By: Candice Malcolm 

July 5, 2018

Earlier this week, Belgian police thwarted a terrorist attack in Europe that targeted a “Free Iran” rally attended by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and many other critics of the Iranian dictatorship.

The Islamic Republic of Iran — the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism — is accused of orchestrating the plot from their diplomatic outpost in Vienna.

Reuters reported that Belgian police arrested two Iranian suspects — a husband and wife, both citizens of Belgium — who were in possession of explosives and allegedly heading to an international conference in Paris to carry out their attack.

Their plan was intercepted, and they were charged with “attempted terrorist assassination” and “preparation of a terrorist offence,” according to a statement from the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office.

An Iranian diplomat stationed at the Austrian Embassy in Vienna was also arrested in connection with this terror plot. Belgian authorities described the diplomat as the couple’s “contact person” — allegedly orchestrating the attack on behalf of the Iranian regime.

The terrorist plot targeted an annual international conference — which I have attended and covered several times in the past — hosted by Iranian dissidents and featuring Western dignitaries and diplomats, calling for freedom and democracy in Iran.

Included among the Western dignitaries were former prime minister Stephen Harper, former Foreign Affairs minister John Baird, former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani, former Republican U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Democratic governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson

Other Western dignitaries included a former head of the FBI, former U.S. attorney general, two former French foreign ministers, a former Italian foreign ministers, dozens of current parliamentarians and journalists from all over the world.

“The intended bombing of the rally once again shows the Iranian regime’s terrorist nature, but also its desperation,” read a statement by Iranian dissidents who host the annual Free Iran conference. “Tehran cannot stop a growing resistance to its rule without committing murder and resorting to brutal suppression.”

The annual event is hosted by the National Council of Resistance Iran (NCRI), a political group opposing the Islamic Republic that is exiled in France. They call for freedom and democracy in Iran and are affiliated with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK).

Both the NCRI and MEK are banned in Tehran — the latter considered a terrorist organization by the Iranian regime.

The MEK have a history of using violence to undermine the Iranian dictatorship, and were once listed by Western countries as a terrorist group. After years of court battles, however, multiple courts in the U.S. and Europe have ordered the removal of MEK as a designated terrorist group, stating there is no evidence of terrorism.

Many Western politicians now support the group’s opposition to the increasingly belligerent theocratic dictatorship in Iran.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has a history of assassinating leaders of opposition groups who live abroad, as well as using diplomats and embassies to do the regime’s dirty work, including spying and pushing regime propaganda. Canada shut down its Iranian embassy in 2012 and expelled all diplomats from this country — a move Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to reverse.

It remains unclear whether the latest thwarted terrorist attack was aimed at any one person or the conference attendees generally.

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