Five UK MPs cheated possible death in 2018 Iranian bomb plot

Five UK MPs cheated possible death in 2018 Iranian bomb plot
Bob Blackman, one of the MPs who attended the rally, told Arab News that the plot was an attempt by the Iranian regime to “take revenge” on the NCRI and their leader Maryam Rajavi. (Screenshot/AFP/Reuters/File Photos)
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Updated 27 November 2020

Five UK MPs cheated possible death in 2018 Iranian bomb plot

Five UK MPs cheated possible death in 2018 Iranian bomb plot
  • Thwarted terror attack on Free Iran rally in Paris underscores threat posed by Iranian diplomats abroad: Bob Blackman MP

LONDON: Five British members of parliament (MPs) were among the thousands who escaped a terror plot at a rally for Iranian resistance groups in Paris two years ago, that was allegedly engineered by an Iranian diplomat.

A bomb intended to explode at the Free Iran gathering in the French capital in June 2018 was found in the car of an Iranian couple who were arrested in Brussels.

Among the potential thousands of bombing victims were five British MPs: Bob Blackman, Matthew Offord, Theresa Villiers, Sir David Amess, and Roger Godsiff, as well as senior US politicians including American President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

The rally, organized by Iranian umbrella opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), had tens of thousands of people in attendance and was aimed at highlighting the global, democratic, and grassroots opposition to the current regime in Tehran.

An Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi — believed to be the mastermind of the plot as well as an intelligence operative — has gone on trial in Belgium for allegedly smuggling the explosives used in the foiled plot from Iran into Europe by using his diplomatic privileges to avoid airport security checks.

Assadi was an ambassador in the Iranian embassy in Vienna, and his alleged involvement in the bomb plot has prompted discussion as to the true role of Iranian diplomats abroad.

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READ MORE: Belgium tries Iranian diplomat over bomb plot

Two years after failed bomb plot, Iranian opposition rallies backers online

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Bob Blackman, one of the MPs who attended the rally, told Arab News that the plot was an attempt by the Iranian regime to “take revenge” on the NCRI and their leader Maryam Rajavi for the groundswell in support for their group among Iranians inside Iran and abroad.

He reiterated a parliamentary motion in which he urged the UK and European governments to take seriously the security threat posed by Iran’s foreign diplomatic missions.

The politician said he condemned Iran’s “misuse of diplomatic privileges” and “reiterates the need to try the suspects and expel other Iranian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover or as ex-members of the opposition.”

The UK, Blackman added, should “make it clear to the regime that its continued use of diplomatic missions and embassies to facilitate, carry out, and plan terrorist attacks will have serious consequences, including expelling of diplomats and closing Iran’s embassy.”

He also urged the British government to “impose punitive measures on the regime’s leadership including (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei, (President Hassan) Rouhani, and (Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad) Zarif who decided and were involved in the Paris bomb plot.”

Blackman added: “The UK government must also proscribe the entire IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) and the Ministry of Intelligence as terrorist organizations because these organizations are instrumental in the regime’s export of terrorism.”

The NCRI is frequently referred to as Iran’s “government in waiting” and the body continues to attract high-level attention and endorsements for presenting a credible alternative to the clerical regime in Iran.

Ali Safavi, a member of the NCRI’s foreign affairs committee, told Arab News that the 2018 bomb plot saga once again underscored the threat posed by Iran’s regime not just to its own people and the Middle East, but to the world at large.

He said: “Today’s trial, a culmination of more than two years of investigations, makes it palpably clear that the use of terrorism as a tool of statecraft is part and parcel of the Iranian regime’s DNA.

“This is an imperative and deterrent step to prevent the godfather of international terrorism making the European territory its roaming ground. The Iranian regime’s leaders must be prosecuted and face justice.”


Biden’s US revives support for WHO, reversing Trump retreat

NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci addresses the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, January 21, 2021. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci addresses the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, January 21, 2021. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
Updated 29 min 29 sec ago

Biden’s US revives support for WHO, reversing Trump retreat

NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci addresses the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, January 21, 2021. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
  • President Joe Biden’s top adviser on the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the US will again fund the WHO
  • Trump's US halted funding for the UN health agency — stripping it of badly needed cash as it was battling a health crisis

GENEVA: The United States will resume funding for the World Health Organization and join its consortium aimed at sharing coronavirus vaccines fairly around the globe, President Joe Biden’s top adviser on the pandemic said Thursday, renewing support for an agency that the Trump administration had pulled back from.
Dr. Anthony Fauci’s quick commitment to the WHO — whose response to the pandemic has been criticized by many, but perhaps most vociferously by the Trump administration — marks a dramatic and vocal shift toward a more cooperative approach to fighting the pandemic.
“I am honored to announce that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization,” Fauci told a virtual meeting of the WHO from the United States, where it was 4:10 a.m. in Washington. It was the first public statement by a member of Biden’s administration to an international audience — and a sign of the priority that the new president has made of fighting COVID-19 both at home and with world partners.
Just hours after Biden’s inauguration Wednesday, he wrote a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres saying the US had reversed the planned pullout from the WHO that was expected to take effect in July.
The withdrawal from the WHO was rich with symbolism — another instance of America’s go-it-alone strategy under Trump. But it also had practical ramifications: The US halted funding for the UN health agency — stripping it of cash from the country that has long been its biggest donor just as the agency was battling the health crisis that has killed more than 2 million people worldwide. The US had also pulled back staff from the organization.
Fauci said the Biden administration will resume “regular engagement” with WHO and will “fulfill its financial obligations to the organization.”
The WHO chief and others jumped in to welcome the US announcements.
“This is a good day for WHO and a good day for global health,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “The role of the United States, its role, global role is very, very crucial.”
The two men hinted at a warm relationship between them, with Fauci calling Tedros his “dear friend” and Tedros referring to Fauci as “my brother Tony.”
The White House said later Thursday that Vice President Kamala Harris had discussed many of the same themes as Fauci raised in a call with Tedros.
But she emphasized the need to beef up the global response to COVID-19, “mitigate its secondary impacts, including on women and girls,” and work to “prevent the next outbreak from becoming an epidemic or pandemic,” the White House said in a statement.
“In addition, the vice president emphasized the importance of making America safer through global cooperation,” it added, highlighting the new tone out of Washington.
John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the renewed commitment “great news” in an email. “The world has always been a better place when the US plays a leadership role in solving global health problems including the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, polio and other diseases,” he said.
Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke wrote on Facebook: “This is going to have a huge impact on the world’s ability to fight the pandemic. It is decisive that the United States is involved as a driving force and not a country that is looking for the exit when a global catastrophe rages.”
Fauci also said Biden will issue a directive Thursday that shows the United States’ intent to join the COVAX Facility, a project to deploy COVID-19 vaccines to people in need around the world — whether in rich or poor countries.
Under Trump, the US had been the highest-profile — and most deep-pocketed — holdout from the COVAX Facility, which has struggled to meet its goals of distributing millions of vaccines both because of financial and logistic difficulties.
WHO and leaders in many developing countries have repeatedly expressed concerns that poorer places could be the last to get COVID-19 vaccines, while noting that leaving vast swaths of the global population unvaccinated puts everyone at risk.
While vowing US support, Fauci also pointed to some key challenges facing WHO. He said the US was committed to “transparency, including those events surrounding the early days of the pandemic.”
One of the Trump administration’s biggest criticisms was that the WHO reacted too slowly to the outbreak in Wuhan, China, and was too accepting of and too effusive about the Chinese government’s response to it. Others have also shared those criticisms — but public health experts and many countries have argued that, while the organization needs reform, it remains vital.
Referring to a WHO-led probe looking for the origins of the coronavirus by a team that is currently in China, Fauci said: “The international investigation should be robust and clear, and we look forward to evaluating it.”
He said the US would work with WHO and partner countries to “strengthen and reform” the agency, without providing specifics.
At the White House later in the day, Fauci quipped to Jeff Zients, who is directing the national response to the coronavirus, “You can imagine the comments we were getting from the people in the WHO.”
Then he added, his voice trailing off, “They were lining up to thank ...”