When a couple of weeks ago, the United States Attorney General announced the indictment of various suspects who were allegedly planning to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, many if not most felt that such a brazen plan could hardly enjoy the endorsement of the Iranian leadership. Too dangerous, too risky, and too belligerent a move that the always careful Iranian theocracy could have possibly ordered it. One is well advised, however, to take a step back and remember that the Iranian leadership—and I do mean this Iranian leadership—is responsible for a whole number of politically motivated assassinations and terror plots. In the 1990s, shortly after Ali Khamenei became Supreme Leader, Tehran was going on the offensive. In 1990 a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Sweden had failed and shorty thereafter exiled opposition leaders were murdered in Vienna. But my own country has seen one of the most brutal plots the Iranian leadership had mounted. In 1992 exiled opposition leaders from the Kurdish region of Iran were meeting at a Berlin restaurant, the Mykonos, when gunmen entered and killed four of the politicians gathered. Thus, on the soil of Germany, state-sponsored terrorism had been carried out a mere two decades ago. I can write that with all certainty, because it is not just an allegation, it has been proven in a court of law. In 1996 a German court sentenced the gunmen carrying out these attacks. But it also ruled that those who ordered it, were sitting in Tehran and could not stand trial, the most important of them former Iranian intelligence minister Fallahin, who is today serving on the Expediency Council, one of Iran's most important political bodies, responsible among other things, for choosing Iran's Supreme leader. Such is the leadership of a state that is now developing nuclear weapons. The story is being told in a book that has hit the shelves in a rather timely fashion: Roya Hakakian's Assassins of the Turquoise Palace.
It is indeed an entertaining book that takes the reader through the events of 1992 and the subsequent trial in Berlin in a rapid pace (at times, however, a little too rapid). Roya Hakakian had the lovely idea of ridiculing the theocracy while describing their heinous acts by starting each chapter with a quote from an Iranian satirist, the very people the regime was and is waging war against (to give you an idea, yours truly feels obliged to give you an example: “Nietzsche's famous Thus Spoke Zarathustra finally cleared the censors at the ministry of culture when its title was changed to Thus Spoke the Ayatollah.”). But the point really is that the Iranian theocracy has had an extensive programme with which it tried to assassinate no less than 500 political leaders, writers, and intellectuals in exile. We do not yet know whether the culprits of the botched assassination plan in the United States were acting on orders of the Iranian regime. The trouble for Tehran, however, is that it would fit a pattern. A pattern most have forgotten but that Roya Hakakian reminds us of.