While we were all preoccupied with who Trump want’s to shoot next, what secrets Hillary Clinton wants to give to foreign governments, and the going price for US hostages something else happened which should scare all of us. On Saturday, an Iranian dissident, Mehdi Khosravi, with a grant of political asylum in the UK was arrested as he entered Italy. The cause of the arrest was an international warrant issued by the Mullah-ocracy in Tehran. You read that right. A guy who fled Iran and was granted political asylum was arrested by a western nation with the intent of returning him to a nearly sure date with the gallows in Iran.
How did this come to pass?
Since the beginning of his presidency, Barack Obama has expressed his wish for Iran to join the community of nations. Taken in the abstract, this is not objectionable. If Iran changes its behavior, Western countries should try to meet it half way, so the theory goes.
But when understood in the particular, it is dangerous statecraft. Consider the recent fate of Mehdi Khosravi, an Iranian opposition figure who received refugee status in 2009 from the U.K. On Saturday, Khosravi was arrested by Italian police in Lecco at the request of a court in Tehran.
If Iran was a normal nation, this would not be controversial. Countries fulfill extradition requests all the time. But Iran is more like Russia under Vladimir Putin, which also uses the extradition process to target its political opponents. Ask William Browder, the American investor whose lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, died in prison as he was investigating the theft of tax revenue. Last year, the Russians issued a “red notice” with Interpol for Browder’s arrest.
To be clear, Khosravi fled Tehran because he was on the losing side in Iranian elections and has since become a figure in the shadow government-in-exile presided over by the son of the late Shah. The fact that the Iranians waited nearly a decade to issue a warrant indicates that his crimes are being a pain in the ass to the hirsute, odoriferous thugs who are now Barack Obama’s favored “partner” in the Middle East.
Saber said he believes the arrest may represent an effort on the part of some Italian government officials to curry favor with the Iranians after last summer’s nuclear deal. “I think the Italian government wants to work economically with the regime,” he said. “Maybe the Italian government has been asked to do this.” The Italian embassy Monday offered no comment other than the press statement from the Lecco police district.
If Saber’s theory is correct, it suggests another dark consequence of the Iran nuclear deal. When U.S. officials first sold the pact, they emphasized that only the sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program would be lifted in exchange for Iranian concessions. If European countries are beginning to honor Iran’s extradition requests, then this is another consequence of a diplomatic arrangement Obama insisted was a narrow nuclear one only a year ago.
Patrick Clawson, the director of research for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me he hoped Khosravi’s arrest was a “bureaucratic mix-up, and not an effort to curry favor with the Iranians.” Clawson said the Iranians have placed the names of political opponents inside the Interpol system requesting judicial extradition for years. But Western governments have properly ignored these requests.
“Once a Western government has accepted someone as a refugee, they should not face arrest,” Clawson said. “Unless this gentleman is being held by authorities for some crime he has committed outside Iran, it’s outrageous to even arrest him.”
Lake is really too kind. Before the nuclear deal, and before business was possible in Iran, any Western nation would have laughed at an Iranian arrest warrant for a political dissident. Now, with visions of billions of dollars of trade deals dancing in their heads, weak sisters like Italy are lining up to placate the mullahs. And if a few dissidents have to hang, well you gotta break eggs to make whatever they do with eggs in Italy.