AMIA bomb plot was hatched at a meeting in Iran, August 1993

Stressing AMIA bombing link, Netanyahu looks to highlight IRGC’s terror role

Castigating Iran’s FM for asserting all Iranians support Revolutionary Guards, PM underlines who helped Hezbollah carry out the 1994 attack in which 85 civilians died

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

The Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish center after it was attacked, July 1994. (Cambalachero/ Wikimedia Commons)
The Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish center after it was attacked, July 1994. (Cambalachero/ Wikimedia Commons)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of being centrally involved in carrying out the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires. But was it really the IRGC, a part of Iran’s military forces, that was behind the deadly attack?

Netanyahu has long blamed the Islamic Republic for commissioning the bombing, but has previously stated that it was the Lebanese-Shiite militia Hezbollah that carried it out — as established by the Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

“Iran initiated, planned and carried out these horrible attacks through its proxy, Hezbollah,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony at the site of the bombing last month.

The IRGC was in the news lately as the US administration leveled additional sanctions against its officials and threatened to declare it a foreign terrorist organization.

“The Revolutionary Guard is the Iranian Supreme Leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia,” US President Donald Trump said Friday.

“It has hijacked large portions of Iran’s economy and seized massive religious endowments to fund war and terror abroad. This includes arming the Syrian dictator, supplying proxies and partners with missiles and weapons to attack civilians in the region, and even plotting to bomb a popular restaurant right here in Washington, DC.”

A group of Iranian paramilitary Basij forces re-enact a riot situation during training in a Revolutionary Guard base in northeastern Tehran, Iran, April 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

“The IRGC’s stated purpose is to subvert the international order,” the State Department added in a statement. “The IRGC’s power and influence have grown over time… It is hard to find a conflict or a suffering people in the Middle East that the IRGC’s tentacles do not touch.”

In the State Department’s long catalog of grievances against the Revolutionary Guards, however, the terrorist attack on the AMIA building, in which 85 people were killed, is not mentioned.

But Netanyahu, in a video message Monday denouncing Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s public support for the IRGC, clearly linked the organization to the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires.

Zarif had tweeted on Saturday that all Iranians, including women and children, support the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Netanyahu begged to differ:

“See, I’m sure that ordinary Iranians aren’t proud when the Revolutionary Guard murders innocent men and women around the globe,” he said. “I’m sure that ordinary Iranian mothers and fathers wouldn’t have blown up a Jewish community center in Argentina filled with little children. Because that’s what the Revolutionary Guard did,” he said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (John Macdougall/AFP)

Netanyahu’s linkage between the IRGC and the AMIA bombing is likely based on the fact that several Iranian individuals accused of involvement in the attack were senior officials in the Revolutionary Guard at the time.

Iran’s former defense minister Ahmad Vahidi, for instance, was the head of the IRGC’s Quds Force, its international operations arm, at the time of the bombing. His name appeared on an Interpol “red notice” list regarding the attack on the AMIA building.

Mohsen Rezaee, another former senior IRGC commander, is also sought by Interpol for his involvement in the bombing.

A man walks over the rubble after a bomb exploded at the Argentinian Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 18, 1994. (AFP/Ali Burafi)

The idea for a second major terrorist attack in Argentina — after the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy — was hatched a meeting on August 14, 1993, in Mashad, Iran’s second-largest city, Argentinian prosecutor Nisman established.

The Iranian leadership’s “Committee for Special Operations” convened to discuss its ongoing problems with Argentina and discussed a list of three potential targets. AMIA, the multi-story Jewish community center office building, was the first of the three to be discussed, and it was approved.

A 2006 indictment in the case (PDF) names Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the head of the council, and says the final decision to attack the AMIA center was made by Khamenei and then-president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

In this May 20, 2015, picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei listens to Revolutionary Guard commander Mohammad Ali Jafari during a graduation ceremony of a group of the guard’s officers in Tehran, Iran (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File)

Imad Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah terror chief routinely charged with planning such atrocities, was subsequently flown from Lebanon to Iran and given instructions to coordinate the bombing. (He was killed by a car bomb in Damascus in 2008).

A Hezbollah activist named Ibrahim Berro — the fourth of five siblings of a Lebanese family with a long involvement in violence against Israel — was selected as the suicide bomber. And on July 18, 1994, Berro drove a white Renault Trafic van filled with explosives into the AMIA building, destroying it. The entire seven-story structure collapsed, 85 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded.

Alberto Nisman (JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)

It was Nisman, in years of indefatigable investigative work, who traced the evidence, in what remains the worst-ever terrorist attack in Argentina, all the way back to that meeting of the Iranian leadership in Mashad.

Nisman was murdered in 2015. The circumstances that led to his mysterious death are the subject of ongoing investigations and continue to roil Argentinian politics.

David Horovitz contributed to this report.

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