Iran fumes over American, European support for opposition group at Berlin rally

Slovenia’s envoy summoned over PM’s remarks at National Council of Resistance of Iran event; Pompeo: US must hold Iran’s new president accountable for his ‘crimes against humanity’

People attend a protest rally as part of the 'Free Iran World Summit 2021' in Berlin, Germany, July 10, 2021  (Michael Sohn/AP)
People attend a protest rally as part of the 'Free Iran World Summit 2021' in Berlin, Germany, July 10, 2021 (Michael Sohn/AP)

BERLIN — The Iranian government has expressed anger over the appearance of senior European and US politicians at a rally in support of an opposition group that has long sought to overthrow Iran’s theocratic rulers — and which was once considered a terror organization by the West.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported that the country’s foreign ministry on Sunday summoned Slovenia’s envoy in Tehran over a video message by the EU nations’ prime minister at the event hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The NRCI is the political wing of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which is considered a terror organization by Iran and was once designated as such by the United States until it was delisted in 2012. The EU removed the group from its terrorism list in 2009.

Hundreds of people rallied Saturday in front of Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, while speakers including former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and numerous serving US senators from across the aisle lauded the NRCI and its aims.

Pompeo, who defended the Trump administration’s hardline stance against Iran over its nuclear program, claimed in his video address that the Iranian government was “at its most precarious state” since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and called for sustained pressure on Tehran.

The former top US diplomat also compared Iran’s newly elected president, Ebrahim Raisi, to a “mass murderer” for his role in the execution of thousands of Iranian political prisoners in 1988.

“The United States should take the lead to hold him accountable for the crimes against humanity that he committed,” said Pompeo, adding that the US government should tell allies in Europe and Asia if they deal with Raisi, “the United States will hold them accountable as well.”

Pompeo praised the NRCI, whose funding is unclear and which has in the past paid foreign politicians to appear at its rallies, urging the group to “keep up the fight.”

“May your mission be blessed and protected, may the Iranian people be blessed,” said Pompeo, a Republican who has refused to rule out running in the 2024 US presidential election.

Pompeo’s support for the group was echoed by Brazile, who praised the “remarkable courage and leadership” of the NRCI’s president, Maryam Rajavi.

Also speaking during the event were Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and Republican Sens. Roy Blunt and Ted Cruz, the former UK House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and others.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa speaks during a press conference after the presentation of the Slovenian Presidency at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, July 6, 2021. (Christian Hartmannn, Pool Photo via AP)

Iran slammed Western politicians taking part in the event, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh accusing them of “(selling) themselves cheap for a Europe-hosted circus arranged by a once Saddam-backed terrorist cult with Iranian blood on its hands.”

The ministry also condemned the speech by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, calling it “unacceptable, against diplomatic norms and spirit” of bilateral relations, the IRNA news agency reported.

Jansa, whose country holds the rotating European Council presidency, had said he backed calls for an independent investigation into Raisi’s role in the 1988 executions.

“The Iranian regime must be held accountable for human rights violations and the international community must be more firm on this,” he said.

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