Europe’s Iran Hostage Crisis

Demonstrators call for the release of US hostages being held in Iran during a demonstration outside the White House, Washington DC, 26th December 1979, Washington DC, December 26, 1979.
Len Hawley/Pool via CNP/Getty Images

Europe’s Iran Hostage Crisis

What will change Europe from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan?

Iran announced it has a European diplomat in detention awaiting trial. The Swedish citizen was purportedly on vacation and arrested in Tehran’s airport. Sweden and the European Union are working on his repatriation.

The diplomat has been imprisoned in Iran for over 500 days. Last year, media reported that an unnamed Swede was in Iranian custody. Thanks to an exclusive report from the New York Times on September 4, we have learned his identity: Johan Floderus.

Floderus has held several positions within the EU bureaucracy. In 2021, he joined the European External Action Service, which acts as the EU’s diplomatic corps. Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, confirmed the Times’s report.

On September 12, Iran confirmed it had detained a Swedish citizen working for the EU. “The investigation is being finalized and the case will be sent to the competent court in the days ahead with the final decision of the prosecutor’s office,” said a judiciary spokesman.

Floderus had visited Iran as a diplomat before. He was charged with espionage when trying to leave Iran on April 17, 2022. Sources close to the situation told the Times Floderus was in Iran on vacation with several Swedish friends. They denied that he was involved in espionage. But choosing an Islamist theocracy as a vacation destination is curious.

Iran has reportedly tried to exchange Floderus for Hamid Nouri, an Iranian official given a life sentence by the Swedish courts for putting thousands of political prisoners to death in the 1980s.

Usually, if tensions deteriorate between two countries and representatives are accused of spying, the accused spies are declared persona non grata and forced to leave the host country. Per two United Nations sessions in Vienna, Austria, in the 1960s, diplomats and their staff normally have “diplomatic immunity”—meaning they are immune to arrest, prosecution and arbitrary detention.

Arbitrarily detaining a diplomat of another country could be interpreted as an act of war. Detaining an EU diplomat could mean war with the bloc’s 27 member states, some of them nuclear powers.

Europe doesn’t want war with Iran. But Iran incarcerated Floderus knowing it could lead to conflict. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei correctly guessed Europe wouldn’t respond with force.

This brings to mind the Iran hostage crisis of 1979. Iranian students, spurred by then Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, held 52 workers hostage at the American Embassy in Tehran for 444 days. President Jimmy Carter’s weak response made him lose the 1980 presidential election to Ronald Reagan.

Floderus’s detention is much less dramatic than the events of 1979. But holding a European diplomat hostage for over a year makes Europe look bad. The EU has a lot of diplomatic, financial and even military clout—but it isn’t using it. Like President Carter, Europe looks weak.

When will Europeans look for their own “Ronald Reagan”?

The Bible prophesies Europe will get a leader who will respond to Iranian provocations. Daniel 11:40 reads: “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.”

The prophecy, dated to “the time of the end,” contains two principal actors: “the king of the north” and “the king of the south.” Secular history combined with the biblical record shows the king of the north is a united European power.

The king of the south, meanwhile, commands a proxy empire throughout the Middle East and North Africa (verses 42-43). For decades, the Trumpet has identified this “king” of the Middle East as radical Islam, led by Iran.

One of the key words in Daniel 11:40 is “push,” which Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon defines as “to strike with the horn, used of horned animals …. [U]sed figuratively of a victor, who prostrates the nations before him….” This king has a pushy, provocative foreign policy. It gloats over its triumphs and humiliates its enemies.

Holding a European diplomat hostage for over a year is a blatant push by Iran. It’s only a matter of time before Europeans get fed up and respond like a whirlwind.

To learn more, read our Trends article “Why the Trumpet Watches Iran and Europe Heading for a Clash of Civilizations.”