July 10, 2018 | The Jerusalem Post

Austrian Jewish community leader slams chancellor for courting Iran

The president of the Jewish community in Vienna blasted Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and President Alexander Van der Bellen for providing a military honor welcome to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday.

“No agreement, neither an oil business [deal] nor an atomic deal, is more important than human life,” said the head of the Jewish community, Oskar Deutsch. “Decades of diplomatic mediation attempts have not led Tehran to relinquish its terrorist support, and the threat of annihilation against Israel has even increased, and then a top representative of this hatred regime will be received in the city from which an assassination of opposition forces in Europe is planned.”

Austrian media reported on Tuesday that an Iranian diplomat, Asadollah Assadi, who works in Iran’s embassy in Vienna, was arrested in Bavaria for alleged involvement in a plot to bomb a rally in Paris on the weekend calling for regime change in Iran.

“This Islamist [Iranian] regime is the world’s largest terrorist sponsor, with Hamas, Hezbollah and other militias being financed and militarily armed from Tehran, so the Iranian leadership is a factor in destabilizing the region,” said Deutsch in his complaint about Austria’s government meeting with Rouhani.

Deutsch said the threats of annihilation against Israel and the deployment of Shi’ite troops on Israel’s border with Syria and Lebanon cannot be overstated and give rise to great concern for all states in the Middle East.

“In Iran, antisemitism is part of the national interest,” and “even on EU soil, Iran kills,” said Deutsch. He cited the 2012 terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, in which Hezbollah – Iran’s chief strategic partner in the Middle East – blew up an Israeli tour bus, murdering five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. “They became the target because they were Israelis,” Deutsch said, citing additional Iranian regime-sponsored terrorism, including the attack against the Jewish AMIA community center in Buenos Aires in 1994 which left 85 dead, or the Kurd murders in Vienna in 1989.

“Hassan Rouhani was one of the highest decision-makers in the Iranian security apparatus at the time, and to portray him as a moderate representative today is wrong, and I assume that all these aspects are at the focus of today’s meetings – not just subordinate clauses,” said Deutsch.

Rouhani lashed out at Israel and the US at his joint press conference with Van der Bellen, terming the US and Israel “destructive.” The Austrian president did not respond to Rouhani’s attacks on Israel and the US.

Van der Bellen said “Austria and the European Union are ready to maintain and deepen the framework for cooperation with Iran.”

Rouhani said “Iran will protect the nuclear deal, if it can benefit from it, but this must be balanced, and if signatories other than the US can guarantee Iran’s interests, Iran will stay in the deal without the US.”

Brian Hook, the senior adviser to the US secretary of state and head of policy planning at the State Department, told National Public Radio in April that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the formal name for the Iran nuclear deal, is “not a treaty. It’s not an executive agreement. It has no signatures. It has no legal status. It is a political commitment by an administration that’s no longer in office.”

The US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May because it did not ensure US national security and would not prevent Iran’s drive to obtain a nuclear weapons device, according to the US government statement on the withdrawal from the JCPOA.

Kurz said at his joint press conference with Rouhani: “In this memorial year in which we are particularly aware of our historic responsibility, I want to clearly emphasize that we condemn in the strongest possible terms any form of antisemitism, and any downplaying or even denial of the Holocaust.

“The concerns of Israel have to be taken into consideration. It is absolutely unacceptable if Israel’s right to exist is being questioned, or if there is a call for the destruction of the State of Israel,” he added.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday: “While we don’t think Western leaders should be meeting with the Iranian regime in the first place, the fact that an Austrian chancellor called out Holocaust denial and antisemitism with Rouhani standing next to him is significant. It should serve as a baseline for other European leaders, starting with Germany, to denounce denial of the Shoah and genocidal hate against Jewish state.”

The largest German daily – the mass circulation Bild – urged Kurz to cancel his meeting with Rouhani and criticized his mainstreaming of Iran’s terrorist regime as a betrayal of European liberal values. Rouhani also met with Austrian business leaders to increase trade.

United Against Nuclear Iran chairman and former US senator Joe Lieberman said in response to the arrests of four individuals, including the Iranian diplomat, who are accused of wanting to bomb the Iranian exile opposition group meeting in Paris: “While the investigation is ongoing, any involvement by Tehran would further signify the danger the regime represents globally,” adding that  “Iran has earned the distinction of being the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism for good reason. The latest incident is part of the regime’s long history of plotting, planning and scheming. In recent years, Iranian agents have attempted to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States.”

Lieberman said that “a number of leaders from the US military and both political parties were in attendance at this latest gathering and would have been targets of the attack. US law enforcement and counterterrorism agencies should become active in this investigation with our European allies.

“If it is proven Tehran was involved in this plot, it’s time for the international community, particularly the European Union, to move beyond statements expressing outrage and toward specific actions that isolate Iran economically and politically.”

Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.