EU covers up for Israel after Iran scientist’s slaying

A protester in Tehran shows the words 'Harsh Revenge' written on her hand, a day after scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated near the Iranian capital (Arash Khamooshi - Polaris)

Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada  /  November 30, 2020

The brazen slaying of senior Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh near Tehran on Friday is a crucial test of whether the European Union can stand up to the extremist forces of chaos and war in Israel and the United States and rescue the 2015 nuclear deal.

So far, the EU is failing.

Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif quickly pointed to “serious indications of [an] Israeli role” in Fakhrizadeh’s slaying.

“Iran calls on [the] international community – and especially [the] EU – to end their shameful double standards and condemn this act of state terror,” Zarif tweeted on Friday.

Iran has good reason to consider Israel the prime suspect.

Yossi Melman, a veteran Israeli intelligence analyst, tweeted that Fakhrizadeh “was wanted for many years by Mossad.”

The killing on Friday was also reminiscent of the murders of four Iranian scientists between 2010 and 2012.

Evidence in those crimes pointed to Israel acting in collusion with MEK, a cultish, formerly US-designated terrorist group that has paid large amounts of money to buy the support of various senior US politicians.

And in 2018, Israeli media claimed that “Israel may have decided not to assassinate” Fakhrizadeh “because it prefers to keep him alive and watch what he is up to.”

Netanyahu lays down the law for Biden

Israel fears that the incoming Biden administration will rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal – known as the JCPOA – which Israel worked to sabotage before and after its conclusion.

Benjamin Netanyahu personally took credit for persuading President Donald Trump to pull the US out of the deal in 2018.

Now the Israeli prime minister is laying down the law for President-elect Joe Biden.

“There can be no going back to the previous nuclear agreement,” Netanyahu declared just days before Fakhrizadeh’s assassination.

Trump is very much on the same page. For one thing, he retweeted Yossi Melman’s tweet on the killing, very likely a sign of approval.

Earlier this month, the outgoing US president reportedly wanted to launch a military attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear energy program during his final weeks in office, but was dissuaded by senior officials.

Intense pressure

Trump almost started a regional shooting war when he ordered the killing of senior Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in January.

But even though such a calamity was avoided – due no doubt to Iran’s restraint – the country has faced a relentless economic war in the form of American sanctions calculated to cause as much harm as possible to Iran’s civilian population.

Yet there is little reason to think that Biden will simply re-join the JCPOA on day one – despite it being one of the few real achievements of the Obama administration in which he was vice president.

Biden himself has shown a lifelong commitment to provide Israel with unconditional support.

He will also be under intense pressure not to re-                                                      join the JCPOA, both from Israel’s formidable US lobby as well as other Israeli allies such as Saudi Arabia.

The longer Biden delays, the more time and space such forces will have to sow further mischief and sabotage.

It will therefore take an immense amount of effort from third parties, particularly the EU, to rescue the nuclear deal.

In December, the EU is chairing a meeting of the remaining parties to the agreement to discuss how to “preserve the JCPOA.”

Doubling down on double standards

So how did the EU respond to Zarif’s challenge to end its double standards and condemn state terror?

On Saturday, the bloc called Fakhrizadeh’s slaying “a criminal act” that “runs counter to the principle of respect for human rights the EU stands for.”

It also offered its condolences for Fakhrizadeh and his bodyguard, who was also reported to have been killed.

At first glance these might seem like strong words. But what is even more significant than what is in the EU statement is what is absent.

First, the statement itself – as opposed to the tweet above – does not even name Fakhrizadeh, a minimum sign of respect that the EU could not muster.

Second, it does not point to any suspect and, most glaringly, it does not call for any sort of investigation.

It’s not hard to guess why: The EU is well aware that Israel is the likely culprit and the last thing Brussels wants is for that to be confirmed.

An instructive comparison for this weak, bad faith response is how the EU reacted to the alleged poisoning of xenophobic, right-wing nationalist Russian politician Alexei Navalny last August.

Navalny is on his way to a full recovery from what was supposedly an attack with a deadly weapons-grade nerve agent.

At the time, the EU declared that it “condemns in the strongest possible terms the assassination attempt on Alexei Navalny.”

It also demanded that Russia “fully cooperate” with an international investigation.

The EU then went on to announce sanctions against six Russian officials despite there still being no evidence of Russian government involvement.

It’s a pattern we’ve seen before.

Shielding Israel

Far from abandoning its double standards, the EU continues to shield Israel from investigation and accountability, even when it touches on a matter like the Iran deal which Brussels considers to be in its own highest interest.

This is not surprising given the EU’s unconditional support for Israel and the considerable influence in Brussels of Israel lobby groups like the AJC Transatlantic Institute that lust for war with Iran.

During the Trump administration, the EU did precious little to keep its promises to Iran to uphold the deal – which would have seen Iran gain access to international markets in exchange for monitoring of its nuclear energy facilities.

EU leaders are now so relieved to have Biden coming into the White House – an American leader they hope will restore the transatlantic neoliberal consensus they yearn for – that they are not likely to pick a fight with him.

Based on its record, then, there’s little reason to expect the EU to stand up to Israel over its crimes against Iran and efforts to sabotage the JCPOA, any more than it does to Israel’s crimes against Palestinians.

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books