“Iranian Embassy” inside the European Parliament
“Iranian Embassy” inside the European Parliament
By Frank Demeyer | Brussels
6 April 2012
The meeting last week of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iran was the scene of a rare confrontation between the pro-Iran faction headed by the Greens group and those wanting to see a fundamental change.
At the issue was the election of a vice-president of the Delegation, a seat left vacant since a German member holding it from the largest political group, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), recently left the parliament.
According to the d’Hont rule - a method maintaining the proportionality of seats per size of each political group - the post should go to a Member of European Parliament (MEP) from the EPP. Josef Daul, the EPP Chairman from France, had officially proposed the Italian Potito Salatto for the seat.
During the February session of the “Iran Delegation”, Belgian Isabelle Durant from the Greens group and three other MEPs had requested a secret ballot, a rare act since there was only one candidate and thus no competition. But the reason became clear when the result was announced. Mr Salatto witnessed a majority of votes against his candidacy in something seen as an unprecedented “coup”.
The reason why MEPs chose to vote against Salatto became clear in last week’s meeting when the new Iranian Ambassador Mahmoud Barimani was invited to the Delegation. The ambassador had opposed Mr Salatto’s candidacy as he considered him too critical of the Islamic Republic.
The Iran Delegation and its pro-Tehran activity goes back to last decade when the Iranian Embassy in Brussels worked hard to establish a formal delegation for relations with the European Parliament. Formed when Ahmadinejad took office, the Delegation has worked hard to undermine international sanctions on Iran and to organise trips to Tehran.
Another surprise guest at the Delegation’s meeting last week was Rouzbeh Parsi, brother of Trita Parsi, a well-known advocate of rapprochement with Islamic Republic who heads Tehran’s main lobby group in Washington called NIAC. Trita just lost a court case in Washington DC against Iranian exiles whom he had accused of defaming him as a lobby for the regime.
Like his brother, Rouzbeh who also attends NIAC’s meetings in USA, keeps a close contact with Iranian embassy in Paris and has obtained an influential job in EU’s Iran policy making circles. Since June 2009, he has been a Research Fellow at the Paris based European Union Institute for Security. He advocates increased trade and engagement with Iran despite EU’s new policy of hardening sanctions while dissuading support for the real opposition.
During last week’s meeting, Mr Mario Mauro, leader of the Italian EPP group, angrily accused the Iran Delegation to have become “Iranian Embassy’s representation inside the European Parliament.”
The main person directing the campaign against Mr Salatto is a German Greens’ staff member, Sabine Meyer, whom observers have called the “de-facto leader” of the Delegation. Her Iranian contact is Anwar Mir Sattary, a self-declared human rights activist belonging to the Belgian Ecolo-Green party.
A former member of a Marxist-Leninist group “Rah-e Kargar” and later a member of Fedayaan Majoirty - an offshoot of the Tudeh communist party which praised Ayatollah Khomeini as progressive and anti-imperialist, Mr Sattari is today one of the richest Iranians in Belgium. His taxi company running 11 taxis in Brussels brings him alone around a monthly €50.000.
He also runs a variety of cultural activities, organising Iranian events and ceremonies in Belgium. His Persepolis Cultural Society, Europerse Federation, Center for Iranian Refugees, Center for Defence of Human Rights in Iran, Union of Iranian Associations etc. have been created in that regard.
In the European Parliament, he has been helping his close friend Sabine Meyer, organising several meetings against refugees of Camp Ashraf in Iraq who are members of the main opposition PMOI-MEK.
In June 2010, the infamous Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was booed in the European Parliament by MEPs hoisting pictures of Neda Agha Soltan, the young Iranian student who was slain by Iranian Revolutionary Guards during the pro-democracy uprisings of June 2009. Ms Durant, in contrast, hosted a controversial luncheon in the honour of Mottaki on the same day.
In December 2009, Mir Sattari together with Meyer made arrangements to bring Batoul Soltani to the parliament. A former member of PMOI, Ms Soltani had been sent from Iran to take part in the Iran Delegation’s meeting in order to demonise the PMOI. At the end of the debate, Geoffrey Van Orden, a senior British Conservative, criticised the setup: “I am not a fan of the PMOI, but I have a nose for Government-sponsored propaganda and I regret this Delegation is becoming a tool for Tehran’s misinformation.”
During a conference last month in Paris, Lt. Col. Leo McCloskey who served as part of the US protection force at Camp Ashraf, revealed how Soltani had been recruited by Iran and sent back to Ashraf “at the behest of the Quds (Jerusalem) Force - a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, as an agent of the Iranian government.”
The decision on who will get the vice chairmanship of the Iran Delegation will be on the agenda again in the April session.