Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A German Jab at Iran: Tough Stance on Terror

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A German Jab at Iran: Tough Stance on Terror

Article excerpt

Sentences handed down by a German court yesterday accuse Iran's leaders of ordering the assassination of Iranian dissidents in Berlin in 1992. But the case will have far more impact than a typical murder trial.

By implicating Iran's spiritual leader and its sitting president, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in ordering the attack, German prosecutors have struck a blow at European relations with Iran and raised questions about how the West should deal with state sponsors of terrorism.

With the perpetrators of the 1988 downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, still at large in Libya, and few hard leads in the more recent Al-Khobar blast in Saudi Arabia that left 19 US servicemen dead, the details about Iran's hit squads abroad have been difficult to find. Iran has for years been high on the US State Department's list of states that support terrorism - along with Libya, Iraq, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea, and Syria - and Washington's policy has been to isolate Iran with unilateral sanctions, threatening further retaliation if ties to the Al-Khobar bombing are found. But the new revelations underscore a dilemma as Western nations try to stamp out terrorist acts. Is "critical dialogue" with suspect states the best way to change their behavior? Germany has been at the forefront of this European policy toward Iran, which calls for high-profile demands on human rights and terrorism while still doing business with Iran. The US has called for total isolation of Iran and clings to sanctions that may most harm US businesses. But Washington seems to be rethinking its strategy. "Neither policy has worked," says a Western diplomat in Tehran during a recent interview. "Germany has been made to look bad, and the Americans and everybody else are unable to change a thing." The convictions of four men for the killings at Berlin's Mykonos restaurant, however - about which German presiding Judge Frithjof Kubsch said "Iran's political leadership ordered the crime" - has brought the dilemma into sharp focus. …

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