BERLIN — Iran was behind the assassination of two Dutch nationals in the Netherlands, the Dutch foreign minister said Tuesday.
In a letter to the Dutch parliament, Stef Blok specifically blamed Iran for carrying out the murders in 2015 and 2017.
The allegations have been discussed privately by European intelligence services since the expulsion of two Iranian diplomats from the Netherlands in July, but this is the first time the Dutch government has publicly accused Tehran.
In response, the European Union moved to put new economic and diplomatic sanctions on Iran.
The victims have been named by Dutch media as Mohammad Samadi and Ahmad Nissi, Dutch nationals of Iranian descent who were believed to have links to groups opposed to the government in Tehran. The murders took place in Almere in 2015 and the Hague in 2017.
Blok’s letter said the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service had determined that assassins working for Tehran were behind both murders, a conclusion shared with other NATO and EU members in recent weeks, according to one military intelligence official from a close Dutch ally.
“The Hague has been furious about this for some time, but this summer’s attempt to kill another [dissident], which involved France, Belgium, and the Dutch, made it a political reality for the entire EU. We cannot allow Iran to go back to the ‘rules of the game’ [like] in before the 1990s, where it was open season on anti-regime activists in Europe,” said the official, who specifically liaises with other EU and NATO countries on Iranian issues and cannot be named.
Ali Vaez, Iran project director at international non-profit Crisis Group, said, "Iranian officials offer a set of explanations, from false flag operations to entrapments or rogue operations, of which none is particularly convincing. It seems that the threat Iran perceives from its peripheries is so acute that prompts brazen and provocative reactions."
When two Iranian diplomats were expelled in July it was thought to be tied to an alleged plot by an Iranian diplomat based in Vienna to help Belgian nationals of Iranian descent bomb an anti-regime rally in Paris, where former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani — a longtime supporter of Iranian opposition — was due to speak.
Arrests were made along the German and Belgian border in that incident and two Belgian citizens remain held awaiting trial. The Belgian federal prosecutor's office in Brussels did not immediately respond to calls for comment.
“It’s related in the sense that we believe the Iranian government has now repeatedly murdered or attempted to murder dissidents on multiple occasions, but beyond that I am not able to define which actions are linked to which ongoing cases or prosecutions,” the military intelligence official added.
Like this summer’s plot, the murders in the Netherlands appears to have targeted members of the Iranian dissident group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which despite negligible popularity in any segment of Iranian society has reaped significant foreign assistance over the years in its often violent attacks on the government in Tehran.
First backed by the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the 1980s and 1990s, the group, commonly called MeK, had been a designated terror group in both the US and EU until heavy lobbying by opponents of Iran like Giuliani in the early 2000s eventually led to the group’s delisting and eventual open political presence in Paris and Albania.