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A Bomb in the Briefcase: When Iran Planned to Launch a Terror Attack in Paris

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Book review by Tom Squitieri

There are some who believe nations of the world have been unfair to Iran, that the nation has been maligned, miscast, and put in a corner for economic and political reasons of others.

Reading “Diplomatic Terrorism” should put an end to such perceptions and shed a very bright revealing light to wash away any uncertainty. In fact the title of the book could have been “Caught in the Act, Caught in the Facts.”  The book’s subtitle is “Anatomy of Iran’s State Terror.”

This book underscores the highly calculated and brazen efforts by Tehran to silence critics. Put together by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), it centers on the foiled, Iranian state-sponsored terrorist attack on the annual gathering of the NCRI on June 30, 2018, near Paris.

You can feel how close the Iranians came to succeeding in the terrorist attack.

It is not the first time that Iran has eyed meetings of dissident groups occurring in other countries as juicy targets for mayhem and murder. The same year the Paris plot was underway, a similar effort was afoot in Albania. Both attempts were thwarted by law enforcement. Iranian diplomats and agents of what authorities described as an “Iranian sleeper cell” were among those arrested in breaking up the two plots, law enforcement officials said at the time.

“Diplomatic Terrorism” reveals and describes the stark reality of what a nation bent on killing and silencing all who oppose its ways will do.

Further, the book details unequivocally to the broader Iranian trend of using its diplomatic posts in foreign capitals for terrorist conspiracies. 

There is strength in the staccato style of presentation; the just-the-facts report offers a treatise on terrorist tactics. A reader almost cries out for a summation of each chapter that would set up a deeper grasp of the facts that follow — there is such precise detail.

Here is an example of the precision of the book. The names are part of the conspirators:

“After receiving no confirmation or any news from Naami-Saadouni on June 30, Assadi decided to wash his rental car. 

Book cover.

“It would be very strange for someone to take a rental car to a carwash two days before handing it over, when it would have to travel another 900 km first. Because TATP explosives were possibly transported in the rented car, washing the car inside and out indicated that the possible traces of the bomb were being removed and destroyed.”

An example of smart police work is also captured by the book: “At 6:05 am on June 22, with the bomb in his briefcase, Assadi boarded Austrian Airlines Flight 872 in Tehran, an Airbus A320 with a capacity of 180 passengers, destined for Vienna.

“The Anti-Terrorism Service of Austria, which became aware of Assadi’s numerous trips to Iran, activated code 43 on the border control’s computer system, so that even when the advanced explosive detection devices sensors detected a bomb as Assadi passed through the gates, the agents avoided apprehending him on the scene. The goal was to find out exactly what Assadi was planning to do after he entered Vienna.”  

As a reporter that does not like holes in any story, “Diplomatic Terrorism” delivers the full content.

The NCRI is an umbrella organization that includes the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, which is comprised of  dissidents who opposed Khomeini’s usurping of the 1979 Iranian revolution.  But “Diplomatic Terrorism” is not a propaganda piece.

On February 4, 2021, Belgian judges declared the Iranian plot was a government conspiracy to conduct a terrorist act on European soil.  As reported by the New York Times, on January 8, 2019, the EU placed Hashemi Moghadam and Assadi on its sanctions list. On the same day, the ambassadors of Belgium, England, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands jointly went to Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran to express their serious concerns about the Iranian government’s actions. 

Iran’s president and foreign minister denied culpability, but the trial and conviction of its diplomat for plotting to commit murder proved beyond any reasonable doubt that Iran’s Foreign Ministry, hand in glove with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, had abused diplomatic cover to launch what could have been one of the deadliest attacks in the heart of Europe.  

Today the screens are vivid with scenes of rebellion against Iran’s government. Yet for years, Iran has worked to silence — and in many cases eliminate — those who call it out for its abuses and militancy against basic rights. It did not begin this year.

Tom Squitieri is a three-time winner of the Overseas Press Club and White House Correspondents’ Association awards for work as a war correspondent. He has written for the Boston Herald, USA Today and The Hill, among other media outlets. 

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