Iran’s regime made the headlines today after news broke that British-Iranian dual national Alireza Akhbari faced imminent execution. Arrested in 2019 over made-up allegations of espionage, the former official who served under the administration of President Khatami is said to have suffered horrific torture.
Speaking to the press Foreign Secretary James Cleverly made clear he understood the move as an act of uncalled aggression against a British national, yet another attempt by Tehran to exert pressure onto the UK to extract concessions at a time it finds itself under great duress. “This is a politically motivated act by a barbaric regime that has total disregard for human life.”
For decades now the Islamic Republic has practised hostage diplomacy, holding our Western capitals ransom to its whims so that its officials could score political points, often levelling threats of torture and/or death to force policy changes.
With protests in Iran showing no sign of fatigue, the regime has keen to up its game – making clear that our collective challenges to the regime’s brutality will be met in kind. And indeed, reports in the press of foiled terrorist attacks, and direct references by officials of forthcoming violence all point to a dangerous escalation.
Over the weekend Germany confirmed it arrested a man in Dusseldorf narrowly avoiding what would have been a devastated Sarin gas attack. In the UK we learnt this week that our security services suspect a package containing small traces of uranium could have been a ‘dry run’ for a planned dirty bomb attack.
As for France, it was warned rather directly by IRGC Commander in Chief, Hossein Salami that it would suffer a fate similar to that of Salman Rushdie for failing to ban the latest publication of cartoons in Charlie Hebdo. The cartoons which depict Ayatollah Khameini in less than a favourable light have profoundly angered the regime, leading many of its most ardent supporters to equate the move to an attack on the sanctity of Islam – a calculated move to incite sectarian violence, and yet again position the West as the enemy to be struck down, thus playing into the narrative that the Islamic Republic forever remains a champion of the Muslim faith.
The ex-deputy Iranian defence minister was arrested in 2019 and convicted of spying for the UK, which he denied.
The UK urged Iran to halt the planned execution and immediately release him.
“This is a politically motivated act by a barbaric regime that has total disregard for human life,” Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted.
Earlier, a Foreign Office spokesperson told the BBC that it was supporting Mr Akbari’s family and had repeatedly raised his case with Iranian authorities.