Canada, Iran and Human Rights

Canada, Iran and Human Rights

1. Can the regime be held “accountable” through diplomacy alone?

There is little if any precedent suggesting that Iranian violations can be mitigated by merely engaging in diplomatic disapproval or issuing condemnatory statements ungrounded in a concrete legislative format.

a)  Past Precedents –The Iranian regime has made itself unabashedly clear over the last 40 years, that it will not reciprocate or moderate its positions in response to western outreach efforts. For decades US presidents and other world leaders have taken turns making numerous and excessively generous offers to the regime to look past the regime’s blood-soaked history and open a new page of diplomatic engagement. These offers were rebuffed.[1] Even the much-lauded Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) is widely acknowledged as having resulted from prolonged sanctions against the regime. 

b) Current Iranian Escalation – Iran was provided with an opportunity with the signing of the JCPOA to further its interests and standing by demonstrating some semblance of good will on issues related to human rights and terrorism, that have been at the core of western concerns regarding the regime. One might have expected the regime to capitalize on the thaw and open a profitable new page with countries willing to largely forgive and forget the brutality that has characterized the Islamic Republic since it was founded. 

But Iran has responded as it always has to every outstretched hand from the west – with greater reginal belligerence; more executions; more amputations and more vitriol towards Iran’s minorities. The regime’s vast industry of atrocities including the execution of juveniles and members of the LBGT community has only expanded since nuclear sanctions were lifted under the JCPOA. As noted by the Hon. Irwin Cotler – it is recently reelected President Rouhani who has overseen this “massive execution binge”. His regime executes one person every 8 hours for any of the 80 capital offenses in the Iranian Penal Code including crimes of “corruption on earth” and “enmity with God.”  It is the same President Rouhani who has rewarded and promoted the worst of Iran’s human rights violators and has presided over nine government ministries that are responsible for every manner of abuse that Tehran has chosen to inflict on its people. Iran’s relentless pace of human rights violations have been documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN Special Rapporteur[2] on human rights in Iran, and a host of other human rights organizations monitoring Iranian behaviours.

c)  Iran has rebuffed Canada’s outstretched hand – Despite the Trudeau government’s stated commitments and efforts on reengagement, Iran has continued its policy of unjustified and unprovoked imprisonment of Canadian dual-nationals. Iran has committed similar violations with the nationals of other western countries that supported the JCPOA and are currently reengaging with Iran. 

d)  “It’s going to take you 30 years to really construct a viable and unbreakable peace” – Even Dr. George Lopez of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, who has testified in the Canadian Senate against the use of broader American-style sanctions conceded that it could take decades for reengagement to create viable change in Iran.[3]  Decades of terrorism and regional carnage while corrupt Iranian government entities fill their coffers through Canadian business deals is an unacceptable ratio of return on this unfounded prediction – one based on a much-disputed premise that there are truly moderate forces in the Iranian government to work with. Even Lopez himself was very circumspect in this regard stating that: 

Although many of us were hopeful with the 2013 election of Mr. Rouhani, seemingly a moderate, and his subsequent signing of that agreement [the nuclear agreement] with the West, it’s clear that he has neither the political leverage nor the inclination to change some long-standing Iranian behavior with regard to the Baha’í and internal dissent.”[4]

2. Is religious discrimination sanctioned under Iran’s constitution?

Yes – it is essentially mandated in Iran’s constitution.

“[Twelver Shia Islam is] – the only religion deemed ‘revolution compliant’ by the state. First, the Iranian Constitution itself enshrines discrimination by stating in its article 13 that the only recognised religious minorities are Iranian Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians – however, even they do not enjoy equality. For instance, evangelical Protestant Christians suffer persecution, and there are significant pressures on Jews and Zoroastrians to publicly pledge allegiance to the government and curtail their activities.

Furthermore, the situation of the Baha’is – the largest non-Muslim religious community in Iran – is alarming. They are, according to the former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the most severely persecuted religious minority in Iran (UN General Assembly, 2016). This is an intentional, state-engineered and state-directed religious persecution that has not abated over the last 38 years. Their persecution is systematic, embedded, far-reaching and includes severe human rights violations such as suspicious killings without investigation, the destruction of cemeteries, a relentless incitement of hatred, the exclusion from civil service and universities, and the mass closure of private businesses.

The Citizens’ Rights Charter, which was released with much fanfare by President Hassan Rouhani on 19 December 2016, does very little to address human rights concerns despite its 120 articles, mainly due to its non-binding nature, general language, loopholes and legal limitations.”[5]

3. Does Iran discriminate against Muslim and non-Muslim ethnic minorities?

Yes. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human rights in Iran notes that the Government accepted only 2 out of the 25 recommendations regarding ethnic and religious minorities made during the 2014 universal periodic review.[6]

Amnesty International: Iran’s disadvantaged ethnic minorities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen, remained subject to entrenched discrimination, curtailing their access to employment, adequate housing, political office, and their exercise of cultural, civil and political rights. …Ahwazi Arabs were imprisoned and subjected to torture and other human rights violations. They complained that the authorities repressed expressions of Arabic culture, including dress and poetry….[7]

Freedom House: “The regime cracks down on Muslims who are deemed to be at variance with the state ideology and interpretation of Islam. …Sunni Muslims complain that they have been prevented from building mosques in major cities and face employment discrimination for government jobs.”[8] (for more see Quote-Unquote #6)

4. Is honour-based violence against women legitimate under Iranian law?

Yes, provisions pave the way for total impunity…

U27N Special Rapporteur (2017):

“…Certain provisions might even condone sexual abuse, such as article 1108 of the Civil Code, which obliges wives to fulfil the sexual needs of their husbands at all times. Similar concerns apply to provisions such as articles 301 and 612 of the Islamic Penal Code of 2013, which provide for lighter punishment if a murder is committed by a father or paternal grandfather of the victim and even allows judges to release the perpetrator without any punishment. These provisions, as observed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, pave the way for total impunity in the case of killings in the name of so-called honour.[9]

5. Has Iran’s unjust imprisonment of Iranian dual nationals increased since signing the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA)?

Yes. The increase was noted in a 2016 report by the European Parliament[10],and has included US, Canadian and European nationals. Iran in fact has not denied it. See the following excerpt from an Iranian newspaper:

Financial Tribune (Mar. 2017): An Iranian lawmaker said western intelligence services and spying networks are trying to “inflict damage on our country” by taking advantage of dual nationals. “Iran is under no obligation to turn a blind eye on the activities of dual nationals and the US claims are totally unfounded. 

Indeed, countries seeking to maintain their dignity and independence will never let foreign agents and their espionage activities infiltrate into their territory,” stated Mohammad Javad Abtahi told ICANA on Monday.

Over the past few years, especially after the nuclear deal, dozens of dual nationals have been arrested and convicted in Iran on what has been seen as an intensified campaign to counter hostile intelligence activities against the country. Referring to the rise in detentions after the nuclear accord, the lawmaker dismissed any allegations about Iran’s excessive use of power and likened espionage networks in post-JCPOA period to “depressed snakes who crawl out of their dens” and stressed that this can be deemed as a reason for the crackdown. Abtahi said the western intelligence services are misusing those with dual nationality to inflict damage on the Islamic Republic. “The spies holding dual nationality are mainly set to penetrate sensitive positions and intelligence, security and cultural communities,” he said. “That being the case, our intelligence services must be extremely cautious about dual nationals’ activities.”[11]

6. Has Iran assassinated dissidents and others opposed to the regime living abroad?

Yes. The regime has been linked to murders abroad.

“Until very recently, Iran’s biggest trading partner was the EU. …[M]ore than 200 Iranian dissidents were assassinated in the streets of Berlin and Paris and very rarely was the Iranian government held to account. So the West has been part of the reason why the regime has literally gotten away with murder.”[12]

Prof. Payam Akhavan – McGill University, Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague

Several high-ranking Iranian officials have in fact admitted to the practice of extrajudicial killings; hundreds since 1979. For more please the excerpt below from:

“No Safe Haven: Iran’s Global Assassination Campaign” (The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center):

Since 1979, the senior leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been linked to at least 162 extrajudicial killings of the regime’s political opponents in 19 different countries around the world. These operations flourished in contravention of both international and national legal regimes and were planned at the highest levels of state. Many of those responsible are still in power today.[13] 

Agents of the Islamic Republic have assassinated opposition figures in the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, India, and Pakistan in Asia; Dubai, Iraq, and Turkey in the Middle East; Cyprus, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, and Great Britain in Western Europe; and across the Atlantic in the United States. Attacks are often planned in such a way as to heighten their psychological impact by grouping attacks in a particular location or on a particular organization together. The IRI has favored close quarter assassinations carried out with firearms or knives over the use of explosives. In support of these operations, the Iranian government has made extensive use of trusted surrogates, most notably the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah, as well as its own intelligence agents. 

A tactic particularly favored by the IRI is infiltrating an undercover operative into an opposition organization to facilitate attacks. The use of a “Trojan horse” is designed to undermine trust among members of the Iranian dissident community. In its public statements, the IRI has also frequently sought to place the blame for an individual attack on rival opposition organizations or power struggles within a particular group in a further attempt to undermine the cohesion of the opposition movement.[14]

7. Has Iran abandoned its policy of assassinating dissidents and others living abroad?

No, despite promises to do so.[15] 

Tasnim News Agency (2016):

“We warn the enemies of Islamic Republic of Iran: Do not make this mistake again as the revolutionary forces will chase them and kill them anywhere in the world. For chasing our enemies, we do not have any limit or red line and our armed forces have proved this in the last few years.”[16]

A warning from Brigadier General Hossein Salami – Deputy Commander of the IRGC

“Iran Intensifying Its Crackdown on Citizens Abroad”

The regime is once again targeting dissidents in Europe and arresting dual nationals, giving Washington and the EU common cause to sanction senior Iranian officials.[17]

Mehdi Khalaji, The Washington Institute

Iranian diplomatic missions abroad “tools to project power in ways not seen since the 1990s”

Elements of Iran’s clandestine services are making increasingly bold and potentially dangerous moves across Europe and Africa, using diplomatic missions abroad as tools to project power in ways not seen since the 1990s, say security officials and counterterrorism experts.[18]

The Daily Beast (Oct 12, 2018)

1. (January 8, 2019) Reuters: “In shift, EU sanctions Iran over planned Europe attacks”

The European Union on Tuesday froze the assets of an Iranian intelligence unit and two of its staff, as the Netherlands accused Iran of two killings on its soil and joined France and Denmark in alleging Tehran plotted 

other attacks in Europe. The move … marks the first time the EU has enacted sanctions on Iran since lifting a host of curbs on it three years ago following its 2015 nuclear pact with world powers.

2. (Oct. 31, 2018) Denmark’s security forces say they have arrested a man over an alleged plot by the Iranian intelligence service to assassinate an Iranian-Arab opposition figure on Danish soil 

CNN –The alleged plan had meant to target the leader of the Danish branch of the separatist Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA), Danish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne Møller Ege told CNN. The suspect is a Norwegian citizen of Iranian descent and was arrested on October 21, Ege said. The Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) allege the man conducted reconnaissance for Iranian authorities who planned to kill the opposition leader. ASMLA, which Iran classifies as a terror organization, advocates for an independent Arab state within the Iranian province of Khuzestan. In a statement on Wednesday, PET said it has been working on the “highly unusual and very serious” case for “an extended period of time.” The plan was foiled in late September following a “comprehensive police operation” across Denmark that saw bridges shut down and train operations suspended, the statement said. “Plans by a foreign intelligence service to assassinate an individual in Denmark are in no way justifiable,” the intelligence service added.

Denmark will push for new EU-wide sanctions against Iran following the suspected assassination attempt, the ministry confirmed, adding that the government would be discussing “the issue of an Iranian intelligence agency’s illegal activities in Europe” with international allies. “This is an issue we will be dealing with within the EU, but of course we will work with any other states who are willing to cooperate with us on implementing sanctions against Iran,” the Danish Foreign Ministry said. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted his approval of Denmark’s actions in apprehending the “assassin” in the alleged plot, which he was part of a decades-long campaign of terror orchestrated by Tehran. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has affirmed that the UK is “with Denmark all the way.” Rasmussen tweeted a message of thanks to the UK government for its support, posting a picture of his meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May and saying Denmark would work “in close collaboration” with the UK and other countries to “stand up to Iran.”

3. (July 6, 2018) The Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) confirmed that two Iranian embassy staff had been expelled from the country

AIVD declined to provide further explanation publicly. According to Dutch state broadcaster NOS, the expulsions took place on June 7[19], a month prior to a spokesperson for Dutch intelligence confirming them. Tehran responded by summoning the Dutch ambassador[20] and condemning the deportation of its diplomats.

More details about this incident emerged in Mashregh News, a state-backed Iranian news outlet close to the IRGC. According to that publication, expulsion of the Iranian diplomats was related to the investigation 

of two murder cases in the Netherlands that Dutch authorities attributed to Iranian agents[21]. Mashregh News explained that the first case was the Nov. 8, 2017 murder of Ahmad Mola Abou Nahez, also known as Ahmad Nissi, the founder of the ASMLA. Nahez was gunned down by an unidentified assailant in front of his home in The Hague.[22]

Mashregh News reported that the second murder investigation leading to the expulsion of Iran’s diplomats was the Dec. 15, 2015 assassination of Mohammad-Reza Kolahi Samadi in the Almere municipality.

Kolahi Samadi, a former member of MKO, had been on the Islamic Republic’s wanted list since a spectacular bombing of the Islamic Republican Party headquarters in 1981. Seventy-five high-ranking regime officials, including Supreme Court chief Mohammad Beheshti, were killed in the attack.

Paul Vugts, a local crime reporter, explained to the BBC that Kolahi Samadi’s widow had told police that her late husband had confided his hidden past to her in 2000. He confessed[23] that he was responsible for the 1981 bombing. Vugts further told the BBC that Dutch police suspected a common criminal in Kolahi Samadi’s shooting. Vugts said that, though Iran had used Hizballah to assassinate people in the past, his sources think Hizballah “recruited criminals from the Dutch drug scene to carry out this killing.” He explained that Iran did not want its “fingerprint on this assassination.”[24]

In the coming months, the legal proceedings against the individuals arrested for their role in these plots will likely provide more detailed information. But we can already see a set of disturbing developments suggesting that the Islamic Republic may be turning the clock back to the bad old days of assassinating its political opponents in Europe.

4. (June 30, 2018) Iranian diplomats arrested in Iranian plot to bomb Paris gathering

A more publicly prominent incident occurred in France, centering on the June 30, 2018 gathering in Paris of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a political front of the resistance Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO). The French government has accused Iranian intelligence of plotting to bomb NCRI’s Paris gathering[25], and a long Wall Street Journal report published on Oct. 31 extensively details European intelligence assessments of this plot.[26]

Authorities arrested the alleged plotters in several European countries. Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat based in Austria, was arrested in Germany[27] on charges of providing a bomb to two Belgian nationals of Iranian origin. He allegedly met in Luxembourg with a husband and wife known as Amir Sadouni and Nasimeh Noami and gave the bomb to them there. When Sadouni and Noami were arrested by Belgian police, they reportedly were in possession of half a kilogram of explosives[28] and a detonator. Later, authorities arrested[29] a certain Merhad A. in France on charges of being an accomplice.

Tasnim News Agency, an Iranian news outlet close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has since released photos of Sadouni at MKO gatherings[30], claiming they show that MKO itself staged the Paris plot as an act of provocation. Indeed, Belgium initially granted Sadouni asylum[31] as a member of MKO. But the photos could also be interpreted as evidence of the regime’s use of Sadouni to spy on MKO, a role that European officials conclude[32] he has taken on for Iran in recent years.

5. (May 2017) Iranian Dissident Saeed Karimian Assassinated in Turkey 

Karimian and his business partner, Mohammad Shallahi, were shot and killed on the street of an upscale neighborhood in Istanbul. Karimian was shot 27 times, while Shallahi was shot three times. The number of wounds is rather telling. Karimian was clearly the target, but Shallahi was an inconvenient witness. Iran had just tried Karimian in absentia for spreading propaganda against the regime. His company dubs Western television programming into Farsi and makes it available in Iran, thus undermining attempts by the regime to control the media and making Karimian a problem.  …At least 162 Iranians, whether they were monarchist, nationalist or democratic activists, have been murdered [by Iran] in the U.S., Europe and Asia. What is striking about this earlier campaign is the similarity in the modus operandi used in the Karimian murder. Many of those earlier victims …. were gunned down in their homes or on the street. In most cases, victims were shot or stabbed multiple times, just as Karimian was shot nearly 30 times on a public street.[33]

6. (January 2017) Germany: Iran Plotted Assassination of German Lawmaker and French Professor 

A Pakistani man accused of spying on a German government official on behalf of Iran was reportedly part of a wider plot to assassinate pro-Israel activists in Europe. German courts convicted Mustafa Haidar Syed-Naqfi on espionage-related charges for spying on Reinhold Robbe, a former lawmaker and ex-head of the German-Israeli Society in 2015, a pro-Israel advocacy group. The 31-year-old engineering student was also reportedly accused of spying on a French-Israeli professor at a Paris business school on behalf of Tehran during that time. The verdict found Mustafa guilty of spying for the Quds Force (IRGC) from mid-2015 to his arrest in July 2016.[34]German prosecutors claimed that Syed-Naqfi was ordered to identify Jewish and Israeli institutions in Germany and other Western European countries as potential targets for terrorist attacks. German authorities believe his preparations were “a clear indication of an assassination attempt.”[35]

8. Has Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made any improvement to Iran’s human rights record?

No.  According to most human rights experts the situation has remained unchanged or has worsened:

The UN Special Rapporteur (2017): 

“The Special Rapporteur regrets that the information she received did not reveal any notable improvement in the situation of human rights in the country.”[36]

The Hon. Irwin Cotler (Senate testimony 2017): 

“…That has to do with whether human rights violations, as has been suggested in previous witness testimony, have abated in Iran, particularly since the signing of the nuclear agreement. I wish that were so, but the record discloses exactly the opposite. You don’t need to take my word for it; just look at the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran, …Since Rouhani came to power, the rate of executions has dramatically increased….

Let me mention the Baha’i as a case study. Their situation has worsened, not improved. Similarly, with regard to targeting dual-nationals, that has increased, not lessened. I can go on. I have written elsewhere about 12 indicators that demonstrate that the situation re human rights in Iran has worsened.”[37]

Amnesty International (2017): 

“The Iranian authorities have waged a “vicious” crackdown on human rights defenders since Hassan Rouhani became president, demonising and imprisoning activists…. “[38]

Human Rights Watch (2017): 

“Despite three years in his office, President Hassan Rouhani has not delivered on his campaign promise of greater respect for civil and political rights. …[T]he hardline factions that dominate … continued to crackdown on citizens … in blatant disregard of international and domestic legal standards. Iranian dual nationals … were at particular risk of arrest by intelligence authorities….”[39]

Report of the European Parliament (2017): 

“Similarly, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran concluded that political and legislative reform has not produced tangible effects. More specifically, there is a major gap between the legislation that has been put in place and the practices implemented by the state in violation of fundamental human rights.”[40]

Freedom House (2016)

“Human rights abuses continued unabated in 2016, with the authorities carrying out Iran’s largest mass execution in years and launching a renewed crackdown on women’s rights activists. … There were no indications that President Hassan Rouhani, a self-proclaimed moderate … was willing or able to push back against repressive forces and deliver the greater social freedoms he had promised.”[41]

Mohsen Sazegara, president of the Research Institute on Contemporary Iran, and a founding member of the IRGC (2015): 

“Human rights abuses have not only continued, but also increased in many respects …Responding to a question about whether Rouhani had the power to change the situation in Iran, Sazegara stated that “he can do many things by the tools that he is in executive power… and support at least the basic freedoms of the people of Iran but he has not done anything.”[42]

Report of the European Parliament (2017):

“Similarly, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran concluded that political and legislative reform has not produced tangible effects. More specifically, there is a major gap between the legislation that has been put in place and the practices implemented by the state in violation of fundamental human rights.”[43]

More from the UN Special Rapporteur:[44]

Recommendations on Capital Punishment — Disregarded

The Government received a total of 70 recommendations relating to the use of capital punishment during the universal periodic reviews.  …To date, none of the recommendations has received effective follow-up.

She observes that the recently amended Criminal Procedure Code, which mandates the Supreme Court to review all death sentences … does not seem to have led to any significant change in this respect. 

Recommendations on Stopping the Execution of Juveniles — “Limited Developments”

The Islamic Republic of Iran has reportedly executed the highest number of juvenile offenders worldwide, over the past decade. Despite an absolute ban on the practice under international law, the Islamic Penal Code still explicitly provides for the death penalty for boys of at least 15 lunar years of age and girls of at least 9 lunar years…. The Special Rapporteur is aware that …  the Government introduced the “Criminal Procedure Bill in respect of Juveniles and Children” in Parliament for review. According to note 3 to article 33 of the bill, the judiciary should consider alternative punishment of two to eight years’ imprisonment in a juvenile correctional facility for juvenile offenders convicted of crimes that carry the death penalty or life imprisonment. The Special Rapporteur …. regrets the limited developments towards the adoption of the law …. 

Recommendations on Children Viewing Public Executions — Disregarded

…[T]he serious concerns expressed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child about the impact on children of those executions have so far been disregarded. 

Recommendations on use of Amputations and Floggings — Rejected

The Government did not accept any of the 20 recommendations regarding torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment made during the 2014 universal periodic review. As highlighted in previous reports, the Government rejects the notion that amputations and floggings amount to torture and maintains that they are effective deterrents to criminal activity.

Iran accepted only 3 out of 16 recommendations regarding freedom of expression

The Government accepted 3 out of 16 recommendations regarding freedom of expression…. The Government, however, rejected a number of other recommendations indicating that they were contrary to the country’s fundamental values, Islamic tenets and the Constitution.

Rouhani Commitments to Press Freedom — Unfulfilled

The Special Rapporteur welcomes the declaration made by President Rouhani in November 2016 about the necessity for journalists to feel safe while doing their jobs, and notes that similar declarations had been 

made in the past. … it does not as yet seem to have been translated into concrete measures to guarantee the freedom of the press. On the contrary, threats against press freedoms continued to be reported….

Recommendations on Equal Rights of for Women – Rejected

The Government accepted 27 out of 60 recommendations regarding the rights of women …. However, it rejected recommendations aimed, inter alia, at ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and girls and ensuring equal treatment of women in law and in practice. The Special Rapporteur regrets that no progress has yet been made towards the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the elimination of legal provisions that discriminate against women in various areas….

Iran Accepts 2 out of 25 Recommendations on Discrimination against Ethnic Minorities

The Special Rapporteur notes that the Government accepted only 2 out of the 25 recommendations regarding ethnic and religious minorities made during the 2014 universal periodic review. 

Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi confesses to “assassinations against opponents of the regime  abroad” within his ministry’s activities outside the country (2014)

The Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi confessed to “assassinations against opponents of the regime of the Islamic Republic abroad” within his ministry’s activities outside the country, as he emphasized in a statement published by The Iranian Judiciary new agency: “The assassinations, included the leader of Jaysh al-Nasr Baluchi, Abdul Rauf Rigi, his nephew and other people in Pakistan.”[45]

National Post: Hamid Abutalebi, Iran’s choice for UN, linked to assassination of dissident in Rome: court documents (April 2014)

An Iranian diplomat that America is refusing to accept as Tehran’s next ambassador to the United Nations was implicated in the death of an Iranian dissident in Rome in the 1990s, court documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph reveal. Hamid Abutalebi was accused of overseeing the alleged assassination by Iranian agents of Mohammad Hossein Naghdi in Rome in 1993 when he was the Iranian ambassador in Italy. Mr Naghdi was shot on a Rome street in a murder that has never been solved. Investigations continued into the case until 2008 when the Rome Supreme Court published evidence, obtained by The Daily Telegraph, that the Iranian state had ordered his death. Abolghasem Mesbahi, a former Iranian intelligence agent based in Germany, alleged to the police investigation that the agent sent from Tehran to kill Mr Naghdi was supervised and controlled in Italy by Mr Abutalebi. He alleged that the ambassador had been involved in the mission alongside Amir Mansur Assl Bozorgian, the head of Iranian intelligence in Rome.[46]

Iranian who Attempted to Assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in D.C. Sentenced to 25 years (May 2013)

An Iranian American … Mannsor Arbabsiar, 58, pled guilty to charges of murder-for-hire and two counts of conspiracy for his role in attempting to orchestrate the 2011 bombing assassination of Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir while the ambassador dined at an upscale Georgetown restaurant. Prosecutors said Arbabsiar was recruited by a cousin who was a senior official in the Quds Force, which is designated terrorist entity. The group is part of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is closely aligned with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Arbabsiar made a number of trips to Iran in 2011, and the plot evolved into a planned assassination. Prosecutors said he made calls to a Quds Force official after his arrest that the FBI secretly recorded. And despite persistent financial trouble, he made a $100,000 down payment on the $1.5 million fee demanded by a man he thought was a Mexican drug cartel associate who would carry out the bombing. In fact, the purported assassin was a confidential source for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Prosecutors, in arguing for the maximum-year sentence, said Arbabsiar understood that any bombing would result in mass casualties but didn’t care.[47]

9. Why is Iran widely acknowledged as world’s most egregious state-sponsor of terrorism? 

“Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran….

As long as Iran has money, we have money.”   [48]                                      

Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah (June 24, 2016)

Iran: What is the “Iran Threat Network”? – Terrorism is at the strategic core of what officials have dubbed the “Iran Threat Network” (ITN). The ITN, as described by Scott Modell of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), is “the global apparatus that Iran has used for more than three decades to promote the goals of the Islamic Revolution. It consists of a network of government and nongovernmental organizations that are involved in crafting and implementing the covert elements of Iran’s foreign policy agenda, from terrorism, political, economic, and social subversion; to illicit finance and weapons trafficking; and nuclear procurement and proliferation.”[49]

Iran: “The Central Banker of Terrorism” –  According to the U.S. State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, Iran remains the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism. U.S. officials have therefore correctly described the regime as the “central banker of terrorism”.[50] The Iranian regime has a nine-digit line item in its budget to support terrorism, sending hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorist groups annually.[51]These funds support dozens of terrorist groups globally including Shia, Sunni, and non-Islamic groups across the globe.

Iran: Terrorism as Foreign Policy – As noted Daniel Byman of the Brookings Institute in his testimony before the U.S. Congress: “Relationships with terrorist and militant groups are integral to Iran’s foreign policy.” For Iran terrorism is not simply one tactic amongst many. It is a morally mandated tool to pursue a key tenet of Iran’s constitution and the objective of the Ayatollah Khomeini: to export “our revolution to the whole world” and to establish an Islamic state “world-wide”.[52]  

10. How much funding does Iran provide for global terrorism? 

Terrorism experts maintain that has Iran invested billions of dollars in terrorism:

The U.S. State Departments 2016 Country Report on Terrorism lists 58 “Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” (many of them are also designated as terrorist entities by Canada) of which over a dozen are allied with Iran.[53] 

Terrorism experts maintain that has Iran invested billions of dollars in terrorism:

a) Congressional Report – According to a 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Iran’s defense budget ranges anywhere between $14 billion to $30 billion a year and much of that money goes to fund terrorist groups and rebel fighters throughout the region. (“Some … experts claim that Iran’s defense budget excludes much of its spending on intelligence activities and support of foreign non-state actors,” the report states, stressing that actual military spending could far exceed the $30 billion that Iran discloses annually. Similarly, another study claims that actual funding for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Force’s Al Quds Force is much greater “than the amount allocated in the state budget, as the group’s funds are supplemented by its own economic activities.”)[54]

b) The Terror Budget – The CRS report gives “low-ball” estimates for each of the groups supported by Iranian funding. Researchers estimate Iran spends between $100 million and $200 million per year on Hezbollah, $3.5 billion to $15 billion per year in support of Syria’s Assad Regime, $12 million to $26 million per year on Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq, $10 million to $20 million per year to support Houthi rebels in Yemen and tens of millions per year to support Hamas terrorists in Israel.[55] 

c) Hamas – As early as 1995 CIA director James Woolsey testified that Hamas has received $100 million from Iran.[56]In June 2006, Hamas announced that Iran had provided it with another $120 million[57]  and later in December Iran pledged another $250 million to Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh. It was estimated Iran was providing Hamas with $20-25 million per month to cover its governing budget as well as supplying the Gaza-based terror group weapons, technical assistance and military training. In 2010 Hamas approved a $540 million budget admitting that the vast majority comes from “foreign aid”. Palestinian sources identified the lion’s share to be coming from Iran.[58]

In 2015, according to a senior Western intelligence official, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards transferred tens of millions of dollars to Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades.[59] And just recently Iran has emerged once again as the main benefactor of HamasIsrael. As announced by Hamas leader Yehya al-Sinwar: “Relations with Iran are excellent, and Iran is the largest supporter of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades with money and arms … The relationship today is developing and returning to what it was in the old days….”[60]

11. Has Canada formally recognized Iran’s leading role in sponsoring global terrorism?


Iran is Listed in Canada as a State Supporter of Terror: Iran is listed in Canada (and in the U.S.) as a State Supporter of Terrorism. On July 1st, 2017, the Canada Gazette reported that after a review, the Foreign Minister determined that Canada will continue listing Iran and Syria as “State Supporters of Terrorism” under the provisions of the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act (JVTA) passed by Parliament in 2012.  

Iran was Found Liable for Terrorism by the Canadian Courts: Courts in Canada and the U.S. have found Iran liable for supporting terrorism. Just recently the Ontario Appeals Court upheld a $1.7 billion judgment against Iran for its support of terrorism. Justice Hourigan stated that “The fact that a foreign government would engage in the sponsorship of such atrocities is chilling…. awarding damages that may have a deterrent effect is a sensible and measured response to the state sponsorship of terrorism and is entirely consistent with Canadian legal morals.”

12. Have Canadians been hurt or killed by Iran-sponsored terrorism?


Several Canadians were murdered in Hamas terrorist attacks, including Mr. Scott Goldberg, a father of seven who was murdered when a Hamas terrorist incinerated a busload of travelers in January 2004 in Jerusalem. 

Other Canadians have been injured in Hamas attacks, including Dr. Sherri Wise of Vancouver. Dr. Wise was severely injured in a Hamas triple suicide bombing while visiting Jerusalem in 1997. 

Iran has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Hamas, and both American and Canadian courts have found Iran liable for its sponsorship for Hamas. Similarly, the American courts have found Iran liable for its support of al-Qaeda[61] and the events of 9/11[62], in which 26 Canadians lost their lives.

Iran’s past and ongoing support of the Taliban also renders it complicit in any injury or death suffered by Canadians who fought in Afghanistan.[63]

13. Are Iran-sponsored terror-proxies active in Canada?


Hezbollah has networks around the world, including in Canada, and uses the networks for recruitment, fundraising and procurement.” [64]

Public Safety Canada

“Hezbollah has been active in Canada since the 1980s raising money through criminal activities and charity, procuring dual-use items, and sometimes engaging in potentially preoperational surveillance of principally Jewish and Israeli targets … produces false travel documents in Canada and in a few instances fugitive Hezbollah operatives … have been found hiding in Canada.” [65]

Mathew Levitt
Fromer-Wexler Fellow and director of the Jeanette and Eli Reinhard Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute

A 2016 report by the Department of Public Safety stated that Hezbollah “has networks around the world, including in Canada, and uses the networks for recruitment, fundraising and procurement.” 

It notes correctly that Hezbollah is an extremist group ideologically inspired by the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 and supported by the Iranian state that “remains one of the world’s most capable terrorist groups”.[66] These activities across the globe have been funded to the tune of billions of dollars by Iran as candidly admitted by Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah in a recent statement: 

 “Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran…. As long as Iran has money, we have money.”  [67]

The organization has been active in Canada for decades and Canadian recruits have been involved in terrorist acts in various countries.[68]

As noted by Mathew Levitt “Canadian officials sometimes refer to their overall program of tracking Hezbollah’s activities… as the “the Hezbollah Investigation” as if it were one single case …The terminology signals the government’s holistic approach to the organization…. The RCMP produced a paper aimed at clarifying the activity likely to happen … by people who may be Hezbollah sympathizers, supporters, members and all the way to trained militants and terrorist operatives.”[69]

Selected examples of Hezbollah’s Canadian involvements are listed below:

a) 2016 Government Report on “The Terrorist Threat to Canada”: “Hezbollah is supported by the Iranian State and has networks in Canada”

“Hezbollah is an extremist group ideologically inspired by the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 and supported by the Iranian state. It remains one of the world’s most capable terrorist groups. The Government of Canada listed Hezbollah as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code in 2002.Hezbollah has networks around the world, including in Canada, and uses the networks for recruitment, fundraising and procurement.” [70]

b) CSIS: Hezbollah tied to organized crime in Canada (2014)

“Hezbollah members in Canada are involved in organized crime, according to Canadian Security Intelligence Service reports and documents. Members of the outlawed group — banned as a terrorist entity in Canada since 2002 — also are secretly engaging in fundraising, procurement of materials and intelligence gathering, according to a “threat assessment” report by the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre, .Hezbollah’s activities here were among the subjects the spy agency expressed concern about in a “top secret” 10-page letter he wrote and delivered last July to Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, soon after he was sworn in. CSIS director Michel Coulombe’s letter described ongoing programs and threats. “Hezbollah is widely considered to be one of the most operationally capable terrorist organizations in the world,” Coulombe wrote in his letter, obtained under the Access to Information Act.” [71]

c) CSIS: “Hezbollah deliberately seeks Canadians because of internationally accepted passports” (2014)

“The terrorist group Hezbollah has been seeking operatives with Canadian passports, a senior intelligence official told MPs reviewing a bill … that could strip terrorists of their citizenship. Appearing before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service official said Canadian passport holders were being actively sought by terrorist groups. “We see certain terrorist organizations in particular target the use of the Canadian passport because of its value, …” said Michael Peirce, the CSIS Assistant Director of Intelligence. “And they will seek out dual nationals for the purpose of using that passport to facilitate travel. And we’ve seen that, at least some indications, in regard to Hezbollah, for instance. So that document is an extremely valuable document and gaining citizenship in order to be able to use that document is a noted goal.” [72]

d) Canadian terrorist, who was a senior Hezbollah member, killed by Syrian rebels

“Fawzi Ayoub was a hijacker, international terrorist operative and senior member of Hezbollah. He was also a naturalized Canadian citizen…. The 48-year-old former Toronto supermarket employee, 

who rose through the ranks of Hezbollah despite his tendency for getting arrested before completing his missions, was declared a “martyr” on a Facebook page filled with photos of him in battle fatigues. The Lebanese-Canadian had been on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list since 2009….”[73]

e) Hezbollah Scouted Targets in Canada (2012)

“In Canada, Hezbollah is “primarily involved in logistics and operational support activities and fundraising destined for terrorist purposes overseas, but the group has scouted targets in Canada, and after terrorist chief Imad Mugniyah was assassinated in Damascus in 2008, Canadian security officials warned the Jewish community that Hezbollah might be planning a revenge attack.” [74]  

f) Hezbollah uses Canada as base: CSIS Agency wiretaps show suspected operatives using laundered money to buy materiel (2002) (selected examples):[75]

“Operatives in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal”

 “[CSIS] documents detail how Hezbollah has laundered tens of thousands of dollars through Canadian banks while drawing on the accounts to shop for military equipment. Hezbollah agents shopped for blasting devices, night-vision goggles, powerful computers and camera equipment … [I]ntelligence reports show the group has been using Canada in recent years to buy materiel, forge travel documents, raise money and steal luxury vehicles. CSIS reports … show that in 1999 and 2000, Hezbollah sent detailed shopping lists to agents who were allegedly part of a network with operatives in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal who filled the orders and shipped the equipment back to Lebanon….”[76]

“The “Miracle Strike” 

“Canadian Hezbollah agents also discussed a scam they called a “miracle strike,” which involved taking out life insurance on someone and then having them killed in a bombardment in Lebanon.” [77]

“A vast cross-Canada network” 

“The extent of Hezbollah operations … first came to light in the 1990s when … Mohammed Hussein al-Husseini was arrested for deportation. He told CSIS about a vast cross-Canada network. …In two cases, alleged Hezbollah agents wanted for terrorist activities overseas were found hiding out in Edmonton and Ottawa. One of them has been charged with taking part in a 1993 bombing attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 Americans. “Hezbollah has members in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto – all of Canada,” Mr. Al-Husseini, a member of Hezbollah’s security organization, told CSIS before he was deported in 1994.”[78]

Hezbollah collecting Information on Canada – “in case there’s a problem”

“Hezbollah wants to collect information on … life in Canada, its roads and so on, in case there’s a problem with Canada.” He was reportedly referring to videotapes of Canadian landmarks sent to Hezbollah.” [79]

g) Hezbollah websites hosted in Canada, U.S., says University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab

In a report released Nov. 17, 2011 the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab found that Canada-based servers host websites for more than a dozen ministries of the Syrian government. They also host the website for the Hezbullah media arm Al-Manar.

As the Canadian government has sanctioned all three groups, the findings raise important legal questions, said Deibert.… “We encourage governments, civil society, and the private sector to seriously consider how best to handle the expanding responsibilities of web hosting companies and how due process and proper accountability mechanisms can be normalized in ways that protect free speech and access to information, while avoiding support for human rights abuses and repressive regimes….”

The website for Al-Manar — the official media arm of the Lebanese political party, Hezbollah — is hosted on Canada- and U.S.-based web servers and employs Canada-based web servers to stream its TV broadcast globally. Al-Manar satellite broadcasts have been banned by the US, France, Spain, and Germany as well as the European Union. The United States includes Al-Manar on its specially designated nationals list, a list of entities with which U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing, and the assets of which are blocked. Canada currently classifies Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.[80]

h) Who is Mohamad Hassan Dbouk and why did he come to Canada?

Hezbollah operative Said Harb assisted Mohammed Hassan Dbouk to come to Canada from Lebanon in 1998: 

“Dbouk, whom Harb would later testify had received extensive military training before coming to Canada, ran the Canadian arm of Hezbollah’s dual-use item procurement efforts. Dbouk and his brother-in-law, Ali Adham Amhaz, were working under the direction of Haj Hassan Hilu Laqis, who was at that time the chief military procurement officer for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Items destined for Hezbollah included GPS and surveying equipment, camera and video devices, computer equipment, night vision goggles, and mine and metal detectors. Dbouk was deemed a pivotal Hezbollah operative ….”[81]

“In 2001, Mohammad Dbouk was indicted in U.S. federal court under Operation Smokescreen. ….U.S. Attorney Robert Conrad, whose office successfully prosecuted the Hezbollah case in Charlotte, testified before the U.S. Congress that according to intelligence he’d examined, 

“Dbouk is such a major player in the Hezbollah organization that on five separate occasions his application to be a martyr was rejected.” Given his overall intelligence, his military training, and his expertise in information operations, Dbouk was too valuable a commodity to expend on a martyrdom mission.”[82]

i) “Hezbollah members in Canada receive and comply with direction from the Hezbollah leadership hierarchy in Lebanon”

 “… What is surmised is that in the past Canada has been used by some of these groups as a safe house. The premise is that there are no attacks on Canadians or Canadian assets because it’s valuable [to terrorists] because of its proximity to the United States. But where’s the evidence? Nobody knows but CSIS,” said Janice Stein, a professor at the University of Toronto who is a specialist on the Mideast.

In a 19-page summary of evidence released Friday in support of government efforts to deport Hani Abdel Rahim Hussein Sayegh, accused of being a key participant in the June 1996 truck bombing, Canadian authorities reported that “Hezbollah has established an infrastructure in Canada that can assist and support terrorists seeking a safe haven in North America. Hezbollah members in Canada receive and comply with direction from the Hezbollah leadership hierarchy in Lebanon.” [83]

14. Is there other concern over Iranian influence and interference in Canada aside from Hezbollah?


a) Iran’s Spymaster: Lobbying Group for Iran is Active in Canada (2017)

“Mahmoud Alavi, Iran’s intelligence minister, in recent remarks  bragged about the Islamic Republic’s ability to operate an unnamed “lobby group” in the United States, Canada, and England, remain devoted to the “Islamic revolution” and are working to promote this agenda in their adopted homelands. “They have a lobby group for the Islamic Republic of Iran which does not cost us money,” Alavi said, without naming the specific organization. … A group of nearly 100 prominent Iranian dissidents working to undermine the regime petitioned Congress in February to investigate … and determine if [the regime] is actively helping to push a pro-mullah agenda.[84]

b) Iran Looking to Strengthen ties with pro-Regime Lobby Groups Abroad (2017)

Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iranian dissident and associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Free Beacon that several years ago Iran implemented a formal plan to “strengthen its ties with anti-war and pro-regime lobby groups. “This included bolstering ties with Iranian dual nationals in the West and certain organizations in Europe and the United States to help “change the unfriendly governments’ policies and actions regarding the regime,” according to Ghasseminejad. This network is tasked with discrediting Tehran’s opponents and stopping efforts to foster regime change in Iran, Ghasseminejad said. “They are specifically concerned about any prospect of regime-change and cooperation between the U.S government and Iranian opposition groups,” he said.”[85]

c) Iranian Embassy Official in Ottawa: Plans to recruit Iranian-Canadians under the guise of “cultural outreach” (2012)

In an interview for the Iran-based website for Iranian expatriates in Canada, the cultural affairs attaché at the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa Hamid Mohammadi urged Iranian-Canadians to “occupy high-level key positions” and “resist being melted into the dominant Canadian culture.” He welcomed the increasing numbers of Iranians living in Canada, estimating them at about half a million and deeming this number advantageous for Iran, noting that part of this community, the second generation of which was already integrating into the influential government apparatus …. Mohammadi went on in the interview to describe Iran’s intention of recruiting Iranian-Canadians to serve Iran under the cover of cultural activity: “By 2031, the total immigrant population of Canada will increase by 64%, and the number of Iranians will increase due to birthrate. So therefore, we need to put into effect very concentrated cultural programs in order to enhance and nurture the culture in this fast-growing population. It is obvious that this large Iranian population can only be of service to our beloved Iran through these programs and gatherings.”[86] The Tabnak website, identified with Iran’s Expediency Council secretary Mohsen Rezai, criticized Mohammadi’s statements, claiming that they provided a sufficient pretext for Canadian authorities to subject Iranian-Canadians to pressure and scrutiny.[87]

d) DFAIT to Iran: “Don’t Interfere” in Canada (2012)

“Iranian-Canadians have rejected the oppressive Iranian regime and have chosen to come to Canada to build better lives… The Iranian embassy should not interfere in their choices. Canadian security organizations will act to prevent threats and intimidation of Canadians.”[88]

e) Martin Rudner (Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies): “I could picture the Iranian embassy making a call….” (2012)

“I could picture the Iranian embassy making a phone call to an individual who doesn’t necessarily want to help them and say something along the lines of, ‘You have relatives back in Iran, and those relatives could be in jeopardy if you don’t help us.’”[89]

f) Toronto Star: “Canada is a Haven of Choice for Iran’s Regime Elite” (2011)

Payam Akhavan, Professor of International Law at McGill University, a former UN war crimes prosecutor, and founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre (Nov. 21, 2011)

“There are numerous accounts in the Iranian community of the Islamic Republic elite and their families making Canada their home and investing hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate projects in Toronto and elsewhere, spreading their illicit wealth, pernicious influence and menacing networks in our country. This may benefit the economy. But it is clearly a security threat. And it is a grave insult to the many Canadians of Iranian origin who are victims of this same elite, not to mention the millions of Iranians fighting for democracy. “[90]


[1]; also see The Persian Night, by Amir Taheri, Encounter Books 2009, pp 2104 -214.








[9] Ibid.























[32] Ibid.

































[65] Hezbollah, The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of G-d, by Mathew Levitt p.168;




[69] Hezbollah, The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of G-d, by Mathew Levitt p.171  







[76] Ibid.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Ibid.








[87] Tabnak (Iran), July 11, 2012.




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