COPENHAGEN/BRUSSELS/AMSTERDAM—The European Union has frozen the assets of an Iranian intelligence unit and two of its staff, as the Netherlands accused Iran of two killings on its soil and joined France and Denmark in alleging Tehran plotted other attacks in Europe.
The move, although in part symbolic since one of the men is in prison in Belgium, marks the first time the EU has enacted sanctions on Iran since lifting a host of curbs on it three years ago following its 2015 nuclear pact with world powers.
The decision, which includes designating the unit and the two Iranians as terrorists, follows last year’s disclosure by Denmark and France that they suspected an Iranian government intelligence service of pursuing assassination plots on their soil. Copenhagen sought an EU-wide response.
“EU just agreed to enact sanctions against an Iranian Intelligence Service for its assassination plots on European soil. Strong signal from the EU that we will not accept such behavior in Europe,” Denmark’s Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said on Twitter.
France, which has already hit the two men and the ministry unit with sanctions, has said there was no doubt the Iranian intelligence ministry was behind a failed attack near Paris.
On Jan. 8, the Dutch government publicly accused Iran of the plots, as well as two killings in 2015 and 2017, sending a letter to parliament to warn of further economic sanctions if Tehran did not cooperate with European investigations.
The letter, signed by the Dutch foreign and interior ministers, said Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium met Iranian officials to convey “their serious concerns regarding Iran’s probable involvement in these hostile acts on EU territory.”
“Iran was informed that involvement in such matters is entirely unacceptable and must be stopped immediately … further sanctions cannot be ruled out,” the letter said.
Iran has denied any involvement in the alleged plots, saying the accusations were intended to damage EU–Iran relations.
By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Robin Emmott, and Anthony Deutsch