Iran Emerging from the Shadows in Argentina

argentina

Trying to understand the levels of Iran’s involvement in Argentina, as in other countries already examined in this blog, is complicated: there, most of the infrastructure is either in the guise of religious, cultural and commercial organizations and open/underground ties with heavily anti-American/”imperialist” groups. Thus, actual open diplomatic relations are only the visible tip of an iceberg that is much, much bigger.

With the Argentine-Iranian AMIA cooperation agreement still nowhere close to realization, we believe that bilateral ties and Iran’s modus operandi around Buenos Aires warrants closer attention.

Growing Cooperation

Understanding the very nature of this relationship became important in the wake of the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 (29 dead and 242 injured) and the Asociacion Mutual Israelita (AMIA) bombing in 1994 (85 dead and 300 wounded) in which Iranian officials were implicated: Ali Fallahijan – Minister of Information and Security of Iran (1989-1997), Mohsen Rezai – Commander of the IRGC (1981-1997) – Ali Akbar Velayati, Minister of the Exterior of Iran (1981-1997).

Other warrants were issued to Ahmed Fayez Moughnieh – Chief of Hezbollah Overseas Security ServicesAhmad Vahidi, Commander of the Quds forces (1989-1998), Mohsen Rabbani – Cultural Attaché at the Iranian Embassy (1994-1998), and Hade Soleimanpour – Iranian Ambassador to Argentina in 1994.

In May 2013, Argentinian attorney Alberto Nisman declared that the AMIA bombing was part of a bigger plot directed by Iran. According to Nisman, prior to the attack, mosques in Argentina were responsible for recruiting potential terrorists and the Iranian Embassy provided the relevant legal protection.

The Diplomatic Connection

Not everybody has been pleased with Nisman’s tenacity. Although Argentina’s 700,000 strong Muslims are not all Shia, those who are tend to maintain a very cosy relationship with Iranian officials – some examples:

  • Former cultural advisor to the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires, Sheikh Mohsen Rabbani headed the local Shia community between 1983-1998 before fleeing to Iran after being implicated as being the “brains” behind the AMIA bombing.
  • The current director of the prominent Tawhid mosque in Buenos Aires, Sheikh Abdul Karim Paz is an ex-Catholic convert to Islam, having lived in Iran and a frequent visitor there. As the head of the Islamic Argentinian Organization he advocates an Iranian-type strict adherence to. He is in close relations with Iranian diplomats from the foreign office and is a sharp critic of the US and Israel.
  • Sheikh Kamel Gomez, the Shia head of the Muslim community in Mar de Plata and the President of the Arab Union Charity which embodies the Iranian fundamental vision of unifying all Muslims under an Iranian led revolution. He is a vocal supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy terrorist agents.
  • Sheikh Mohsen Ali is a radical Muslim community leader and a member of the Ahlul Bayt World Assembly based in Iran. He is a staunch supporter of Hezbollah as well as a very vocal anti-US/Israel.

Needless to say, Iranian embassy officials are very supportive of these leaders and the organizations they lead and they meet in mosques, embassy events and anti US/Israel events and protests.

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

But Iran’s supporters in Argentina are not just Shia. Indeed, the ties to Argentina’s extreme left wing are also quite strong – as personified in Luis D’Elia,  a prominent leader of the Piquetero Movement. For years, he has vocalized his denial of Iran’s involvement in the AMIA bombing (he “believes” that the bombing was carried out by Israel’s Mossad and the US) as well as denying the Holocaust.

He travels frequently to Iran, meeting there in the past with Ahmadinejad himself, numerous senior Iranian officials and Sheikh Rabbani.  D’Elía himself admitted that the purpose of these trips was to strengthen economic ties and advance Iran’s nuclear program.

Over the years, the Piquetero Movement – which began as a working-class movement – has developed visible ties with the Muslim communities in protests, demonstrations and conferences.

(D’Elia is under investigations for receiving cash payments by the Iranian embassy in exchange for promoting Iranian interests.)

At the inauguration of SMILE, another political party he is heading, former head of the Iranian mission in Buenos Aires  (officially the “representative responsible for commercial affairs” with Iran, but generally referred to as “ambassador”) was conspicuously present.

From the above it emerges that Iranian diplomacy is skillfully playing Argentina at least three ways: the government, the Shiite community, and the radical left. Not surprisingly, this modus operandi is no different than its activities in other regions.

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11 thoughts on “Iran Emerging from the Shadows in Argentina

  1. As a well informed argentinian i can tell this is very partial and quite tendentious. There’s no mentioning of critical actors (what about former presidente Menem’s ties with arab nations?).
    Not that I agree with any of the parties involved.. but i cannot but question why is there only one side of the story here.

    • hi martin,
      the relations between argentina and iran go much further than a 500 word post – there’s much more information out there.
      as to the “other side” of the story – i’m sure there is one and i allow people with opinions different from my own to present them.

    • Please allow me first to point out that Martin Caradagian is a pseudonym. The name is taken from a famous wrestler in Argentina’s TV (his last name was spelled with K, not C, mind your speling, Mr or Ms unknown!).
      Being a real person and a better informed than the wrestling fan above, I would say the article reflects reality very well.

      • Sorry. I think the only option is to change the theme. The theme you use is using a very thin font which makes it too difficult to read. And you got such great articles on your blog people should be able to read them. We had to do the exact same thing. Our previous theme had a readable font but it was too light and we could not change it, so we had to switch themes.

  2. The mother of a great Jewish friend
    from Bs. As. told me that 50% of the Argentine Jewish community fled in the days of the military junta: not for anti-Semitism!
    She said that they fled because they were liberals, lefties, and intellectual professionals.
    Imagine 250,000 people simply drifting away; stripping Argentina of the best and brightest because of fear. Remember what happened in Nazi Germany, remember what happened in Spain in 1492. A country is it’s history:shame!

    .

    • Even though a significant number of people emigrated from Argentina during the military government era, it never reached that many, it was more like thirty thousand exiling in total, and a small portion of them were Jewish. In fact, Buenos Aires is still the second largest Diaspora city in the world, with about two hundred and fifty thousand strong, and if the amount you mentioned had left, nobody would be left around. So with all due respect to your friends mamele, that is simply, untrue.
      Shalom!

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