(CNSNews.com) – The Iranian regime’s weekend execution of a former senior official accused of spying for Britain is adding fuel to calls for tougher action in Europe.
Lawmakers are pressing for action, including designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity and withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who had earlier called the allegations against Alireza Akbari “a politically motivated act by a barbaric regime that has total disregard for human life” and appealed to Tehran not to execute him, in response recalled the British ambassador for consultations.
He also announced sanctions on Iranian prosecutor-general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri to underline “our disgust at Alireza Akbari’s execution,” and is mulling further action. (The Biden administration sanctioned Montazeri last month).
Akbari, a British-Iranian dual national, served as Iran’s deputy defense minister two decades ago. The regime’s Intelligence Ministry in a statement last week described him as “one of the most infiltrating agents of the spying service of the evil U.K. in the country’s sensitive and strategic centers.”
Britain denied the regime’s allegations that he was an agent for the MI6 foreign intelligence service.
Akbari reportedly claimed to have undergone thousands of hours of interrogation and torture after his arrest in 2019.
Relations between the West and Iran are already severely strained over the regime’s deadly crackdown on protests – including the executions of convicted protestors – and its provisions of combat drones to Russia for use in the war on Ukraine.
As Cleverly prepared to visit Washington on Monday for talks that will include responding to Iran, the Sunday Telegraph cited government sources as saying London is reconsidering its support for the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Conservative lawmakers have been calling for such a step.
Citing the execution of Akbari, Tory MP David Jones called on the government to “recognize the JCPOA as dead and sever diplomatic relations with Iran,” arguing that it was “futile to expect change from a rogue state.”
Two days earlier, Matthew Offord, also a Conservative MP, called in the House of Commons for “a cutting of all political ties and no further negotiations with the Islamic regime of Iran,” along with “the termination” of the JCPOA “in its entirety.”
Since President Trump in 2018 withdrew from the nuclear deal, the trio of European parties to the accord, Britain, France, and Germany, have largely been supportive of getting it back on track, arguing – as President Obama had – that it was a critical tool to prevent the regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.
President Biden launched an effort in April 2021 to return both the U.S. and Iran to compliance with the deal, but European Union-convened talks in Vienna aimed at achieving that goal faltered last year. Since the outbreak of protests in Iran sparked by the death in September of a young woman in the custody of the “morality police,” the process has not moved forward.
Biden admitted during an election campaign event in November that the agreement was “dead,” but said the administration was not going to say as much publicly.
The reports that Britain may be reconsidering its own support for the JCPOA come at a time when French lawmakers are calling on the European Union to end the talks aimed at reviving the nuclear agreement.
Dozens of French senators are backing a resolution calling on the E.U. and President Emmanuel Macron’s government to take a range of robust actions in response to the regime’s rights abuses. They include ending the JCPOA talks, shutting Iranian banks in Europe, closing E.U. airspace to Iranian aircraft, and listing the IRGC as a terrorist organization that is subject to restrictive measures.
Macron at the weekend condemned the execution of Akbari as a “heinous and barbaric” act. The German government also condemned it, and said that those responsible will be held accountable.
In addition to executions already carried out, the regime’s security clampdown – led by the IRGC and the Basij militia – has resulted in more than 480 protesters killed and thousands detained. Rights advocates say more than 100 detainees are at risk of execution.
In response, the U.S., Britain, Canada, the E.U., and others have announced a range of sanctions and other punitive measures.
Britain is also moving towards listing the IRGC as a terrorist group. (Trump took that step in 2019, the first time ever that the U.S. had formally designated a foreign government entity as a foreign terrorist organization.)
Critics say Europeans governments need to do more than issue condemnations.
On Tuesday, the European Parliament will debate a motion to add the IRGC and Basij to the E.U. list of terrorist entities.
“Iran’s execution of British-Iranian dual national Alireza Akbari is yet another act of barbarism from this brutal regime,” tweeted Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Enough empty statements of condemnation from European capitals. The time is now for action – full sanctions, especially on the IRGC & all senior regime officials.”
Jason Brodsky, policy director for the advocacy group United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI), said European governments “urgently need a new approach” after years of failed engagement with the regime and should treat it “like the terrorist state that it is.”
“With its four decades of unapologetic bloodstained rule, European governments will never be able to have normal relations with the Islamic Republic as long as it remains the Islamic Republic,” he said. “It’s time to come to terms with that reality.”
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