Roses from Rome
This blog takes pride in shedding light on Iran’s exploitation of its diplomatic infrastructure for some very undiplomatic purposes. Turning now to Italy, it’s not hard to identify those same components that exist elsewhere: the embassy, chamber of commerce, spiritual center, local radicals and gullible diplomats.
Money is a central motive here. Import of Iranian oil rose by 90% last year and contracts have been signed for the next three years. As the President of the Italy-Iran Chamber of Commerce, Rosario Alessandro, boasted, “Rome will be Tehran’s main European trade partner for the year 2013“.
Thorns from Tehran
For its part, Tehran wants to increase its infrastructure of influence in Italy not only through trade and diplomacy but through cultural and political entities as well.
Its base is the Cultural Institute of the Iran Embassy headed by Iranian cultural attache, Ali Pourmarjan. Most of the institute’s activities are seemingly benign – such staging exhibitions and cultural events – but Pourmarjan is a key contact with other organizations which are definitely not benign.
Take the Islamic Association Ahl al Baith organization, for example, created by a neofascist named Pietro Benvenuto who converted to Islam and took on the name of Abd al-Kabir. Abd al-Kabir was inspired and remains in contact with another neofascist and ex-terrorist Claudio Mutti, the editor of the geoplolitical magazine, Eurasia, who also converted to Islam taking on the name of Omar Amin. Both men and organizations actively support Tehran and are in contact with Pourmarjan and high ranking diplomats in Italy and in Iran.
Another similar organization is the Imam al Mahdi Islamshia center headed by another Italian convert called Hojatolislam Abbas Damiano di Palma who studied in Qom and met former President Ahmadinejad several times.
As in other cases, Tehran’s infrastucture in Italy goes beyond its embassy and religious figures, but rather also includes ties with with radical right wing political organizations such as the “Stato & Potenza” (State & Power) movement whose attacks on “imperialism” clearly mirror Tehran’s sentiments. Its leaders, Lorenzo Salimbeni, Stefano Bonilauri and Ali Reza Jalali are all ardent supporters of Iran, Hezbollah and Bashar Assad.
Sounds familiar? Not surprising – especially not the central role by the cultural attache at Iran’s embassy to Italy. Remember Mohsen Rabbani, Tehran’s cultural attache in Buenos Aires during the time of the AMIA attack. Remember Hamid Mohammadi, cultural attache at Iran’s embassy to Canada (before it was shut down) who bragged about exploiting his position to recruit expatriots for the cause.