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Arrest of Iranian envoy, ‘sleeper cell members’ mars Iran president’s Europe visit over N-deal

By Shubham

Paris, July 6: Iran has been at the centrestage of international politics ever since US President Donald Trump scuttled the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran and now, the arrests of an Iranian diplomat and members of what the authorities called an "Iranian sleeper cell" in various parts of Europe for allegedly planning to bomb a high-level meeting in Paris will escalate things more between Tehran and the international community.

Iran president Hassan Rouhani

Iran's foreign ministry has already summoned the envoys of Belgium, France and Germany over the arrest of its envoy Assadollah Assadi who was accused of being part of a sinister bombing plot at a meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held in Paris on Saturday, June 30. Rudy Giuliani, counsel to US President Donald Trump besides several former European and Arab ministers were among those attending the meeting.

Apart from Assadi who was arrested by the German police in Vienna, a married couple -- Amir Sadouni and Nasimeh Nomeni - in their late and mid-thirties, was also detained in Belgium over their alleged plan to bomb a meeting of Iran's opposition activists and they are believed to be a long-term sleeper cell installed by Tehran. Another person having alleged links with the other three arrests was also held in France.

According to a report in IntelNews, the arduous operation against the alleged sleeper cell started the same day of the meeting, when Belgium's Special Forces Group personnel stopped a Mercedes car which was carrying the couple. The woman, according to Belgium interior ministry, was carrying 500 grams of tiacetone triperoxide explosive and a detonator inside the bag containing toiletries, the IntelNews report said.

On Sunday, July 1, Assadi was arrested. He was reportedly driving a rental care in Bavaria province of Germany towards Austria when he was arrested. The same day, another person was arrested in France, reportedly in connection with the three arrests in Belgium and Germany.

The IntelNews report said all the four detainees were allegedly working for the Iranian regime and charged with an alleged plot to bomb the NCRI meeting. The NCRI is an umbrella group of Iranian dissidents based in France and led by Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which has its radical roots in radical Islam and Marxism. The militant group had assassinated six American officials in Iran between 1970 and 976 besides trying to kill the US ambassador to Tehran in 1970. The group had initially supported the Islamic Revolution of 1979 but later withdrew it. It continued to operate from exile, especially from Iraq where it was trained by the Palestine Liberation Organisation and other Arab leftist groups, IntelNews added.

Enemy's enemy is my friend

Till 2009, the West considered the MEK as a terrorist organisation but it came close to the US and European Union because of its sworn enmity with the Iranian government. In 2012, MEK's name was dropped from the US State Department's list of foreign terror organisations.

The Iranian authorities were disappointed with the latest episode, calling it "fake news". Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the incident as a "false flag ploy" and said it had to happen just when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani embarked on a tour of Europe to mobilise world opinion over the nuclear deal. "How convenient: Just as we embark on a presidential visit to Europe, an alleged Iranian operation and its 'plotters' arrested," he tweeted. According to Tehran, the anti-Iran forces orchestrated the sinister plan to malign it before the world.

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