There are “clear signs” that terrorist networks first established by Iran in several South American countries in the 1980s and 1990s are still in place, and there are indications that Iran has similar networks in Europe, the Argentinian prosecutor who investigated the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires told The Times of Israel.
In a telephone interview a week after he issued a 500-page report on the bombing and Iran’s wider terrorist infiltration of South America, Alberto Nisman said that Tehran had established its terror networks for the strategic long term, ready to be used “whenever it needs them.”
He said he had sent the information he collected in the course of investigating the AMIA blast to the judicial authorities in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname, because there remained “a real risk” of new Iranian-orchestrated terrorist atrocities in those countries.
He said he saw indications that Iran had established similar networks in Europe, referring to cases in Germany and France, but would not elaborate. He said a foiled attempt to blow up New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport in 2007 was orchestrated from Guyana via a similar Iranian network, and that he was in contact with the relevant US authorities regarding that case.
A key figure in both the bombing of the AMIA (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) Jewish community center building, in which 85 people were killed, and the thwarted JFK plot, he said, was Mohsen Rabbani, who was serving as the Iranian cultural attaché in Buenos Aires at the time of the AMIA blast. “Rabbani got to Argentina in 1983, and was involved in the attack only 11 years later,” Nisman noted, to underline his point about Iran’s long-term terrorist infrastructure. His report last week identified Rabbani as the coordinator of Iranian clandestine activities in South America.
“Iran uses the networks whenever it needs them,” he said. “It could be today. It could be a long time from now.”
The specific motivation for the 1994 AMIA bombing, he said, was to punish Argentina for suspending its nuclear cooperation with Iran. Once the decision was taken to act against the country, he said, it was a Jewish target that was decided upon — again, a familiar Iranian strategy. “When they choose to act against a country, the attack is commonly on the Jewish community,” he said. “It’s the first target.”
Because Argentina was targeted twice in the 1990s — a 1992 blast at the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires killed 29 people, in the deadliest attack on an Israeli diplomatic mission — Nisman said “it might not be so easy” for Iran to strike in Argentina again, “although the networks could be reactivated.” But he said there was “a real risk” in the other countries he had specified, and that urgent international cooperation was critical to thwarting further attacks.
He said he had recently been in contact with Interpol, which in 2007 placed several senior Iranian officials allegedly behind the AMIA blast and other terrorist efforts on a “red notice” watch list, to urge that it take “extra measures” to seek the arrest of the suspects. Among those on that list are Rabbani and Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi. So, too, is one of the candidates in this week’s Iranian presidential elections, Mohsen Rezai. A second candidate, Ali Akbar Velayati, was also allegedly involved in the planning of the AMIA bombing and the formation of Iran’s terror networks. “Both were directly involved in the decision to attack the Jewish community,” Nisman told The Times of Israel.
As throughout his investigation into the AMIA bombing, Nisman said he continues to receive intermittent death threats, by phone and email. “I report them to the authorities,” he said simply.
In his report last week, Nisman outlined Iran’s “dual use of diplomatic offices, cultural or charity associations and even mosques, as cover” for terrorist activities.
The prosecutor said in his report that the AMIA bombing did not constitute an isolated event, but was “part of a bigger image, dominated by the strong and aggressive Iranian infiltration in the region in which Rabbani did not limit himself to Argentina, but… based on the gathered evidence, extended his activities to Guyana and to several South American countries.”
A 1982 seminar in Iran attended by hundreds of religious men from 70 countries was highlighted in the report as a “turning point for the regime’s method to export the [Islamic] Revolution.” The regime subsequently summoned each representatives of each Iranian embassy with the goal of “turning it into an intelligence center.”