Be it Germany, Great Britain, Austria or France… the influence of Iranian Islamists in Europe seems to be growing. The danger has now been recognized by security agencies: some mosque associations with direct links to the Tehran regime are being closed, and those who promote theology are expelled from the country. But the inhuman system in Iran is also increasingly being associated with terrorist attacks.
The West German town of Castrop-Rauxel: Two Iranians were arrested a week ago on suspicion of terrorism and, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office, had planned an attack on New Year’s Eve. The act apparently failed because the suspects lacked the ingredient for a poison cocktail.
According to the judiciary, the terrorist suspects had originally planned an attack on New Year’s Eve on behalf of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia. As part of an international exchange of information, the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) was informed that a Telegram user located in Germany was planning “a terrorist attack on behalf of the so-called IS on New Year’s Eve 2022”, according to a report to the state parliament in North Rhine-Westphalia.
According to the security authorities, this was the latest attempt by a terrorist cell in Germany to carry out an attack. Even if, according to the investigations, the suspected terrorists are not accused of being close to the Iranian dictatorship, experts in the Islamism scene assume that the Shiite ideology of the Iranian theocracy has also been trying to get close to Sunni extremists in recent years. “We see a pattern, according to which the mullahs’ regime in Tehran is increasingly moving towards IS principles in terms of its ideological orientation,” says an extremism researcher.
But it’s not just religious fanatics who are close to the Ayatollahs in Tehran, as the latest investigations show: In Germany, it’s about a rocker boss who murdered and dismembered an alleged traitor and is said to have connections to the clan milieu. He is accused of having planned attacks on synagogues in Germany for the Iranian regime. In Austria it is a religious center that was presumably only founded to indoctrinate the Viennese Iranian community in the spirit of the Islamic Republic.
The Central Office for the Prosecution of Terrorism in Düsseldorf has confirmed that a 35-year-old German-Iranian is being investigated because he is said to have tried to incite another man to carry out an arson attack on the synagogue in Dortmund. He also offered him refuge in Iran after the attack. There is also evidence that the 35-year-old threw a Molotov cocktail at a school in Bochum, which is right next to the local synagogue.
The man has since been arrested – the person he allegedly tried to instigate had volunteered to report to the police. It is still unclear whether the arrested man had anything to do with the four shots fired the night before the arrest at the door of the rabbi’s apartment next to the old synagogue in Essen.
The responsible interior minister in Düsseldorf reported to the state parliament’s interior committee that “state influence” from abroad could not be ruled out in the present case. The tracks lead to Iran, the country that has been rocked by violent protests against the strict religious regulations of the mullahs’ regime for weeks – and by the violent reaction of the state power. In the meantime, the rocker, who was wanted by the police, has gone into hiding in Iran, he is “on vacation”, as he himself explained in a post on social media at the end of last year.
Now the German authorities have found out that he is not just on vacation there. Apparently he is in the service of the Iranian regime. He is said to have had contact with the man who is now in custody because of the failed attack plan in Dortmund. This was reported by several German newspapers and the TV magazine “Kontraste”. The accused is said to be a kind of contact for the Iranian mullah regime in Germany. According to the reports, the Attorney General will take over the investigation.
German security authorities have been observing for some time that Iran is establishing connections abroad, including in Germany. Contact people would be instructed from the embassy in Berlin or the consulate general. And just recently, the German Parliament asked the federal government to examine a ban on the “Islamic Center Hamburg,” a mosque association that, according to intelligence, is controlled directly by Tehran.
Security circles say that now that the wave of protests is rising in Iran and demonstrations against the regime are also taking place in Germany, Iran’s attempts to influence members of the opposition and opponents of the regime in Germany are increasing. People are apparently being threatened and intimidated.
Attacks on behalf of Iran on symbolic institutions, especially Jewish ones or those associated with Israel, have for some time been perceived by security authorities as a real danger. The fact that the Iranian regime organizes middlemen and hires third parties to do this, as allegedly in the case of the 35-year-old arrested in Dortmund, is considered common practice in intelligence circles.
The Islamic Center Imam Ali (IAZ) is located in Transdanubia, for outsiders the districts of Vienna north of the Danube. According to testimonies, however, it is not a cultural center, but actually a mosque, an illegal one, because according to the law, no prayer rooms should actually be built in an industrial area. That alone has caused controversy, because according to the Viennese building regulations, no prayer rooms may be built in the commercial area.
However, the center is receiving increased attention precisely because of the ongoing protests in Iran against the incumbent mullah regime and its moral police. Tehran continues to use repressive state violence to suppress the rallies. Demonstrators are being publicly executed in connection with the protests, causing worldwide outrage. In the light of the current events, two questions that have been in the air for a long time are given new urgency: How closely is the IAZ in Vienna intertwined with the repressive-religious Islamic Republic? And: Does the financing come directly from Tehran?
Politicians in the conservative/Green government in Austria see the religious center in Vienna as a branch of the Islamic Republic that wants to exert influence on Iranian exiles in Austria. The foreign policy spokeswoman for the Greens, Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic, even describes the center as part of a “hub for espionage and political influence” by the mullahs’ regime in Vienna. In the event that funding from Tehran can be proven, she calls for the center to be closed immediately.
Similar words can be found in the German federal government, which wants to ban the Islamic Center in Hamburg, which has been under surveillance by German security authorities for years. However, this did not prevent the government of the northern German city-state from officially collaborating with the center for a long time and even supporting it financially.
Those directly responsible for politics in Vienna, from the municipal government to the state secretary in the Federal Chancellery, do not declare themselves responsible in the case of the Shiite center or are simply surprised at the public discussion.
Experts do not dispute that the center in Vienna receives funds from Tehran. To what extent and by what means is less clear – and is currently the subject of investigations by the Austrian “Documentation Center for Political Islam”. According to research by journalists, it has so far been established that the mullahs’ regime in Tehran bought the building in 2017 for more than 2.5 million euros. The federal government in Austria keeps talking about having banned foreign financing of Muslim associations and places of worship, but in this specific case there is once again a legal loophole: Only permanent financing would violate the Islam law. For example, if you set up a fund in Austria to finance a network of mosques, then it would be legal again.
A personal connection between the mullah regime, the Vienna and Hamburg centers could also be established: the clergyman Reza Ramezani. He sits on the more than 80-strong Iranian expert council that elects Iran’s supreme leader. Several years ago, Ramezani not only headed the Center in Vienna, but later also the Islamic Center in Hamburg for a long time.
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