Last Wednesday, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman accused Iran of “infiltrating” South America and establishing intelligence networks aimed at carrying out more terrorist attacks in the region. Nisman said the effort has been ongoing since the 1980s in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Surinam and Trinidad and Tobago. “These are sleeper cells,” he explained. “They have activities you wouldn’t imagine. Sometimes they die having never received the order to attack.”
Nisman’s remarks were made as he presented a 500-page indictment detailing the case against former Iranian officials accused of masterminding the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed 85 people. The effort has resulted in Interpol arrest warrants for eight Iranians and one person believed to be Lebanese. They include former Iranian cultural attaché in Argentina, Mohsen Rabbani; Iran’s current defense minister, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi; former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; former Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian; former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, former Revolutionary Guard chief Mohsen Rezaei; former ambassador to Argentina Hadi Soleimanpour; and the Iranian Embassy’s former third-ranking diplomat, Ahmad Reza Asghari.
Velayati and Rezaei are candidates in Iran’s current presidential election, scheduled for June 14. Rabbani is the alleged the architect of the bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, as well as “coordinator of the Iranian infiltration of South America, especially in Guyana,” according to Nisman.
With a population of 200,000, Argentina’s Jewish community is the largest in South America, making it the most obvious target for terror in the region.
Nisman’s report contends that the 1994 bombing “has to be investigated as a segment in a larger sequence.” This includes the case of Guyanese men Russell M. Defreitas and Abdul Kadir, who were convicted in 2010 of conspiring to attack New York’s Kennedy International Airport by blowing up fuel tanks and triggering a series of explosions along a pipeline that wends its way through the city. During cross-examination by prosecutors in that case, Kadir, a former Guyanese government official, admitted he had drafted regular reports to the Iranian ambassador in Venezuela, outlining plans to infiltrate the Guyanese military and police forces.
According to Nisman, Kadir was Rabbani’s “disciple.” Kadir “received instructions” from Rabbani “and carried out the Iranian infiltration in Guyana, whose structure was nearly identical … to that established by Rabbani in Argentina,” the prosecutor wrote. He further insisted that Interpol should step up its efforts to execute arrest warrants for the bombers.
The indictment has been sent to Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, the judge in charge of the case, as well as the countries targeted for infiltration. Iran has sought “to infiltrate the countries of Latin America and install secret intelligence stations with the goal of committing, fomenting and fostering acts of international terrorism in concert with its goals of exporting the revolution,” Nisman wrote.
Unsurprisingly, Iran has denied any involvement in the 1994 attack. Furthermore, the regime refuses to allow Rabbani or any of the other suspects to be extradited to Argentina. The Iranians insist a viable compromise is a newly agreed upon “truth commission” that will purportedly allow Nisman to obtain testimony from the accused — in Tehran — following years of legal deadlock.
The establishment of the truth commission was announced in January, following a concession made by Iran last July to cooperate with Argentina on the investigation, which the Iranians contended “was going down the wrong way.” It will be comprised of five judges, none of whom come from Argentina or Iran.
AMIA officials, as well as other Jewish groups in Argentina, are vehemently opposed to the move. “To ignore everything that Argentine justice has done and to replace it with a commission that, in the best of cases, will issue, without any defined deadline, a ‘recommendation’ to the parties constitutes, without doubt, a reversal in the common objective of obtaining justice,” said a joint statement released by AMIA and the Delegation of Israelite Argentine Associations, which also contended the move would “imply a decline in our sovereignty.”
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor was equally furious, saying that that Buenos Aires had committed a “breach of trust towards Israel.” The Israeli embassy in Argentina was bombed in 1992, killing 29 and injuring more than 200 others. The pro-Iranian group Islamic Jihad claimed it did it to avenge Israel’s assassination of a Hezbollah leader. Yet like the AMIA case, no one has ever been brought to justice for that attack.
Countering Jewish opposition, Argentine president Cristina Fernandez, who maintains ties with other Latin American nations on good terms with Iran, called the agreement “historic.” “It guarantees the right to due process of law, a fundamental principle of international criminal law,” she contended. On her Twitter account, Fernandez further insisted the commission would “analyze all the documentation presented to date by the judicial authorities of Argentina and Iran.”
Parliaments in both countries have yet to approve the deal, the status of which remains a “memorandum of understanding” signed by Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi Salehi, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles was delighted with Nisman’s massive compilation of evidence, contending it should be the impetus for abandoning the truth commission. “There is no question that the AMIA bombing was an action planned and carried out by Iranians and their agents. Prosecutor Nisman’s expose of the Tehran regime’s continent-wide tentacles must render the Iran-Argentine cooperation agreement on investigating the AMIA bombing null and void,” said a statement issued by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Dr. Shimon Samuels and Sergio Widder, senior officials at the center.
Iran has no embassy in Argentina at the present time, but has added six in the region since 2005, bringing the total there to 11. Iran has also established 17 cultural centers in the Western Hemisphere. Following Nisman’s statements, no one answered the phone at the Iranian embassy in Brasilia, Brazil.
Nisman’s efforts might bolster the “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act,” signed into law on Dec. 28. The act gives Secretary of State John Kerry 180 days to provide Congress with a report assessing Tehran’s activities in the hemisphere, in order to deter threats posed by “the Government of Iran the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC’s Qods Force, and Hezbollah.”
The law was undoubtedly prompted by Iran’s 2011 plot to assassinate a Saudi diplomat in Washington, D.C., using members of a Mexican drug cartel to carry out the killing. “Reports of Iranian intelligence agents being implicated in Hezbollah-linked activities since the early 1990s suggest direct Iranian government support of Hezbollah activities in the Tri-Border Area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, and in the past decade, Iran has dramatically increased its diplomatic missions to Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Argentina, and Brazil,” the law states.
Unfortunately, the administration remains behind the curve, either by accident or design. In December 2012, YNet News published a report noting that U.S. officials have been aware of an “extensive web of contacts” linking drug cartels in Mexico and other South American countries with Iran, Hezbollah and al Qaeda since at least 2010. That’s when a report commissioned by the House Committee on Intelligence revealed that ties between Hezbollah, the Mexican drug cartels and Iran “were getting stronger.” Illegal aliens associated with those groups have been smuggled into Mexico by those cartels, “placing them a virtual stone’s-throw away from the United States,” the magazine reported.
One suspects that report, as well as the one by Alberto Nisman, will be downplayed at least for the next two months, while those dedicated to “comprehensive immigration reform” attempt to get their handiwork approved in both houses of Congress. Nisman’s establishment of Iranian terror cells in South America, as well as the establishment of their involvement with drug cartels a “stone’s throw” from the U.S. border would undoubtedly complicate a bill in which border control “metrics” would be assessed by the same administration determined to convince Americans that terror is “on the run.” Running loose in South and Central America is more like it.
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