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After anti-Americanism, Iran heightens anti-European policies

First, the US was the prime target. After former US President Barack Obama reached the nuclear deal with Iran and helped lift four rounds of UN sanctions, Tehran immediately paid back the favor by heightening anti-Americanism. Every concession the US made afterward cost more. Despite the nuclear deal, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has made clear in his speeches that the US remains Tehran’s primary enemy.
For example, American sailors were detained soon after the agreement. In order to project its power, Iran broadcast videos humiliating them. More Americans were arrested, most recently Xiyue Wang. Iran aired emotional footage of him to pressure the US. In addition, Tehran began to harass US ships in the Gulf more frequently.
Some European politicians believed that Tehran’s animosity was only directed toward the US because of their history, so the EU increased trade and business deals with Iran, ignoring its alarming behavior. The UK also reopened its embassy in Tehran.
But Iran’s regime is founded on being anti-Western, not only anti-American. Khamenei has characterized Western beliefs and actions as “world arrogance, with America being the complete symbol of it.” This is echoed in the slogan: “Neither the West nor the East, only the Islamic Republic (of Iran).”
Iran’s ruling clerics oppose and resent any cultural, political or social element linked to the West. Khamenei repeatedly says in his speeches that the biggest threat to Iran is the infiltration of Western culture and ideology. He and senior cadres of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fear that Western culture, lifestyle and ideology will cause Iranian youths to resist the regime and push against the boundaries set by it.
That is why Tehran is ratcheting up anti-European policies, with new waves of arrests and harsher punishments of EU citizens. For example, instead of releasing British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe — who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency — Tehran fabricated new allegations that she wanted to topple the regime, and aired them on state TV.

The objective of targeting EU citizens and taking them hostage is to pressure their governments to hand Iran millions of dollars for their release, and to adopt policies of appeasement.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

The objective of targeting EU citizens and taking them hostage is to pressure their governments to hand Iran millions of dollars for their release, and to adopt policies of appeasement. In the case of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Tehran is pressuring the UK government to pay $530 million. The mullahs are also trying to keep Iranian society as confined as possible, in order to close any door that could lead to Western “infiltration.”
Tehran recently threatened to upgrade its missile capabilities to hit any city in Europe if it takes any action against Iran. This threat came despite several European countries pursing appeasement policies and giving Tehran billions of dollars via trade deals. Several experts believe that Iran is on the verge of developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with North Korean assistance. ICBMs are guided missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.
The least the EU can do to protect its citizens, and to halt Iran’s human rights abuses and threats, is to change its appeasement policies and trade partnerships with Tehran. These policies only embolden and empower Iranian forces such as the IRGC and the Quds Force, which pursue militaristic goals and ambitions. Such engagement with Tehran only increases its human rights violations against its own citizens and Westerners.
European governments can also sanction the IRGC and affiliated groups for sponsoring terrorism. In order to survive and strengthen their social base, Khamenei and his gilded circle will continue to view the West as their primary enemy, regardless of how much Europe pursues friendly policies toward them.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh