Mysteries of AMIA victim #86

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Slightly more than a week has passed since Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead in his apartment, less than a week after he filed a criminal complaint against a host of Argentinian officials all the way up to President de Kirchner.

Since then, facts and rumors are streaming in together and things have become clearer.

Back in Argentina, Nisman focused mostly on president de Kirchner and foreign minister Timerman who both, he accused, “took the criminal decision to fabricate Iran’s innocence to sate Argentina’s commercial, political and geopolitical interests”. De Kirchner was accused of directly ordering a covert team of negotiators to make an offer “from the shadows” to Iran which would guarantee immunity to former Iranian government officials and ease Argentina’s energy shortage. Nisman who had obtained his information from wiretaps on phones didn’t mince words: “There’s been an alliance with the terrorists” and “Iran admits and even boasts that it carried out the attack” he said on a television interview 4 days before his death.

Both de Kirchner and Timerman initially scoffed at the accusations, trying to turn Nisman into paranoid quack with a knack for conspiracy theories and immediately deemed his death a suicide.

Nisman’s death was definitely not a suicide:

  • Nisman voiced his worries that his life was in danger and he placed 330 CD’s with a friend for safekeeping days before his death – why?
  • The gun was not Nisman’s although he had permits for two guns – why use someone else’s?
  • There is no exit wound for the bullet that killed him which means that the gun was not held close to Nisman’s head – who shot him?
  • A 10 person government security detail guarding Nisman was conspicuously absent on the night of the murder – who called them off?
  • No gunpowder residue was found on Nisman’s hands – so who pulled the trigger?
  • Although two doors to the apartment were locked from inside, another entrance was found from the apartment next door (the owners were conveniently on holiday) with a finger print and a foot print – whose?

De Kirchner herself retracted and moved from suicide to murder, but deemed Nisman’s accusations “confusion, lies and questions” and then spread her own conspiracy theory claiming an orchestrated attempt to discredit her and her government. She also questioned who had “ordered” Nisman to return home abruptly from a family vacation implying that “Nisman’s masters” were responsible for his death. In another article she says “THEY used him while he was alive, and then THEY needed him dead” implying once again that “they” were Nisman’s operators who had killed him to embarrass her.

She vowed that the culprits of Nisman’s death “will be found” but since the culprits of the 1994 AMIA bombing have not been apprehended after 21 years, it’s not easy to believe her. Furthermore, since Nisman requested to freeze $23 million of de Kirchner’s assets, it’s hard for her to be objective. The 21 year-old AMIA investigation always implied negligence and corruption on the parts of the Argentinian courts and governments but now, they were accused of betrayal, treason and conspiracy to murder.

It should be noted that the dubious “truth commission” between Iran and Argentina was initiated by de Kirchner and trade between Iran and Argentina subsequently grew from $84 million to $1.2 billion in the first three years of de Kirchner’s presidency. De Kirchner was visibly angered at the furor following the signing of her “truth commission”: “When it was decided that there would be cooperation by way of the pact, they (the Jewish institutions in Argentina) accused us of complicity with the Iranian state.” What she forgot to mention was that before the “truth commission” was signed in Geneva, a secret meeting between Timmerman and then Iranian foreign minister Salehi took place in Syria two years earlier.

Nisman handled the charge that finally led the Argentinian court to dismantle the “truth commission” for being unconstitutional in that it symbolized a breach of the government’s meddling in the courts.

Now back to Tehran: Remember, Nisman listed nine high-ranking Iranian diplomats including Iran’s defense minister Vahidi, Iranian intelligence minister Fallahian, presidential candidates Rezaee and Velayati (now Khamenei’s personal counselor) and over the last week, one more Iranian diplomat was added to this list – president Rouhani himself. True, Nisman doesn’t list Rouhani in the list of Iranian diplomats directly responsible for the AMIA bombing but he does accuse Rouhani of being a member in 1994 of the Iranian intelligence agency which was overseeing secret operations abroad. Rouhani may not have managed the operation but he knew and allegedly authorized it, which makes his purported fight against terrorism (World Against Violence and Extremism – WAVE) look ludicrous and hypocritical.

Since Tehran is denying any involvement in the AMIA bombing and its subsequent cover-ups, it’s highly unlikely that any Iranian officials, including Rouhani, will stand in an Argentinian court in the near future. Yet the money flowing between both countries is tainted by blood.

Argentinian Prosecutor Nisman Conveniently Shot

AMIA 86

Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead of a bullet in the head in his apartment and a gun beside him. His death is a prime manifestation of the shadows of political intrigue – an attempt to cover-up a cover-up for political and commercial interests much like an episode from “House of Cards”. His death (murder or forced suicide) implicates governments and statesman, terror organizations and terror states.

The Argentinian government at first decided that Nisman had committed suicide despite the fact that it goes against all logic, as he was to appear publicly the next day for the performance of his lifetime efforts. But others immediately announced that Nisman had become the 86th victim of the AMIA bombing, nearly 21 years later.

21 years ago, on July 18th 1994, a bomb exploded in the AMIA (The Mutual Society of Argentina and Israel) center killing 85 innocent civilians and injuring hundreds more.

As I outlined in my previous post on this matter, the investigation pointed towards Hezbollah, and more importantly, Tehran.

Over the next few years, the prosecution issued numerous warrants for the arrests of Hezbollah operatives as well as a large number of Iranian diplomats and politicians including: President Rafsanjani, Iranian ambassador to Argentina Soleimanpor, Iranian cultural attaché in Argentina Rabbani, IRGC commander Vahidi (later defense minister), Iranian intelligence minister Fallahian and presidential candidates Rezaee and Velayati (Khamenei’s right hand man).

Tehran, of course, denied all and made a big deal about blaming “Zionist” elements for even suspecting them. Out of all of the suspects, only Soleimanpor was questioned and subsequently released. The others either escaped Argentina or stayed put in Tehran leaving too many questions unanswered.

The case was marred by accusations of cover-ups and corruption and as the years went by, more accusations and warrants were issued but no one was yet to be indicted.

For the governments of Buenos Aires and Tehran this was bad news, as trade between the two countries was severely hampered. So, after 19 years, the respective foreign ministers met and signed a memorandum to set up a joint “truth commission”. The idea was simple: set up a mutual Argentinian/Iranian commission which would ease the pressure on both countries. The memorandum was meant to ease the investigations against the Iranian diplomats and finally allow for the trade that both countries desperately wanted. In the process, Iran absurdly went from being or harboring the chief suspects of this crime to becoming partners with the police that was investigating the suspects. Tehran thought the case would be conveniently closed.

They forgot about Nisman, the untouchable justice seeker, who took over the case back in 2005 (by directive of the previous President). His scathing report (2013) accused Iran of setting up an infrastructure of terror and subversion in many south American countries while abusing diplomatic immunity, stating that Iranian so called “cultural centers” had become hubs for Hezbollah operatives, Iranian diplomats, Qods commanders and local anti-US leaders.

The above mentioned memorandum went against the judicial process, overturning many decisions by the courts, raising public criticism. Within the year, Nisman managed to convince the Argentinian court to declare the agreement as unconstitutional.

Nisman now further charged the government of being involved in a massive cover-up that reached all the way to then Argentinian president Kirchener and his daughter, Argentina’s current president Fernandez de Kirchner: “The president and her foreign minister took the criminal decision to fabricate Iran’s innocence to sate Argentina’s commercial, political and geopolitical interests“.

Nisman had seemed worried that he might be a target for an assassination but assured that “with Nisman around or not, the evidence is there” in a TV interview last week. Since he is now dead, we can only hope that the evidence will come to light.

So the AMIA case just got more complicated, or more simple, depending on your point of view. I have no doubt that Nisman was eliminated by a Hezbollah/Qods operative in Buenos Aires with or without the help of the Argentinian government in an effort to silence Nisman’s accusations. His life is a small price for the potential billions of dollars in trade between Tehran and Buenos Aires. And so, Iran remains far from the hands of justice…for now.

Yemen to Iran – Keep Hands Off Yemen!

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Taking a long look through our blog and you’ll see that there have been some queer happenings going on with Iranian diplomats all over the globe. In general, they seem to be hurt or assassinated more frequently than diplomats from any other country.

Take Abolqassem Assadi, the financial and consulate officer of Iran’s embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. He was shot by gunmen in the center of the city back in January.

Or, so it seemed. For a while, there were declarations that he was still alive, kidnapped, hurt or dead. Last month, things started to clear up as foreign minister Javad Zarif sent a letter to the UN secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, expressing the regime’s unhappiness with certain issues, among them was the matter of Mr. Assadi.

The Ministry spokeswoman, Marziyeh Afkham, even voiced an official concern about security conditions in Yemen, going so far as saying that “Iran attaches importance to the issue and waits for immediate action of Yemeni government to identify the assassins behind the assassination of the Iranian diplomat”.

As is usual with statements of this kind from Tehran, Yemen was outraged. After initially stating that the assassination was done only to sever ties between Teheran and Sana’a, the president of Yemen, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, sounded very aggressive toward the Islamic Republic: “Unfortunately, Iranian interference still exists, whether through its support for the Hirak separatists or some religious groups in northern Yemen .We asked our Iranian brothers to revise their wrong policies towards Yemen, but our demands have not borne fruit. We have no desire to escalate (the situation) with Tehran but at the same time we hope it will lift its hand off Yemen”.

So now Iran has another, rather large and unsavory dish, on its plate. They were of course attempting to calm down the situation. Afkham has denied President Mansour Hadi’s allegations.

The story, it seems, remains the same:

  1. Tehran attempts to increase its influence through local organizations hostile to their governments.
  2. Tehran’s efforts at local subversion are met with local violence at the expense of Iranian diplomats.
  3. Tehran is formally accused by the local government of subversion and terrorism.
  4. Tehran accuses the local government while at the same time, denies any accusations of wrongdoing.

If only Tehran would decide to break this circle of violence once and for all!

Trouble Brewing in the Gulf

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The Gulf as a Microcosm

As Iranian diplomats battle their way into a nuclear agreement in Vienna, trouble is, once again, brewing much closer to home: lines are being drawn in the oil-soaked sands and the Gulf states are choosing sides.

And although this might seem far away and irrelevant for most people, this conflict is not going to be contained within the Gulf – in fact, it is being played out in countries as far away as Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, India and the US. Because what happens in the Gulf definitely doesn’t stay there.

The Red Corner: Iran-Oman-Qatar

Oman is a natural partner of Iran and has been so since the Islamic revolution. The ties are strong and are fuelled by their control of the Straits of Hormuz as well as money – a lot of money. Last year, Iran inked an agreement with Oman to export gas and Iran is setting up a deal with Oman and India for an underwater pipeline bypassing the current land route through Pakistan. Since relations between Iran and Pakistan are on the rocks right now, such a pipeline would be a double blessing for Iran.

Qatar was not always pro-Iran and, in fact, was at odds with Iran as far as Syria is concerned by backing the rebels (to the tune of 1-3 Billion dollars) as befitted the will of the country’s ex-monarch – Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. But since the crown-prince of Qatar, Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is an avid supporter of Assad, sentiments have changed up to the point where Qatar has decided to take a step back from the conflict in Syria and actually back Iran. In the meantime, Qatar and Iran are planning to establish a “Joint Free Trade Zone” which is sure to sweeten the relations between both countries.

The Green Corner: Saudi Arabia-Bahrain-UAE

The nuclear negotiations never did not sit well with Riyadh quite simply because the Saudis do not believe Tehran’s claims of a peaceful nuclear program. Consequently, the Saudis believe that the nuclear deal was a green light for them to buy a nuclear bomb from none other than…Pakistan.

The growing conflict between Tehran and Riyadh is not contained in the Gulf but is being battled out in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq through proxy-terrorist groups being financed by both sides. The Saudi backing of Al-Qaeda troops against Iranian-backed Hezbollah has resulted in an upsurge of terrorism in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq at the expense of civilians and Iranian diplomats caught in the crossfire.

This conflict is about money as well – Iran is trying to mobilize Iraq to form a front against Saudi Arabia’s control of OPEC, a move which is certain to add fuel to an already growing explosion in the making.

The Saudis are visibly upset with Qatar’s siding with Iran in this political tug of war, recalling its ambassador a week ago. True, relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been on the rocks for a while (since Qatar openly backed the Muslim Brotherhood) but the context of their relations is definitely Iran.

And then, of course, there is Bahrain which is, with the UAE, a natural ally of Saudi Arabia and a victim of Iranian attempts at subversion and terrorism. Bahrain never supported Iran and will definitely not do so in the future.

The Future of the Gulf

Iran has never hid its aspirations to become a leader in its neighborhood. After decades of sanctions and animosity with the West which definitely benefitted the Saudis, its rapprochement through a nuclear deal has raised many questions and anger levels between the neighboring countries. Their calls for diplomacy with Saudi Arabia by Iran are repeated in the same breath as accusations and there seems to be no end in sight.

One thing is certain – this won’t be a clean fight: Tehran will use all its resources to topple the Saudis balancing grip and judging from the past, be prepared to read about exposed spy rings, IRGC/Qods/Hezbollah operatives, shipment of munitions etc…

Iraq to Join Lebanon and Syria

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It seems that, at least for now, the specter of the Iran-Iraq war is buried deep in the past with Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hussein. And while Iraq has been steadily imploding for the past few years due to internal strife, Iran’s world smile offensive has placed it in a unique position to take the Tehran-Baghdad relationship to the next level – a level which will place Iraq in company with Lebanon and Syria.

Iran is investing in its Northern neighbor – ideologically, militarily and financially. Iraq’s Shia population is a powerful incentive for Tehran’s Islamist regime and such populations usually preclude subversive efforts by Iran such as in the case of Bahrain.

But in the case of Iraq, as in Lebanon and Syria, subversion is supported by military might in efforts to fight Al Qaeda Sunni terrorism operating relatively freely in Iraq.  Essentially, Iran has evolved into a key player in the Iraqi landscape, a terror-infested country that is undergoing a radical change since its dictator has fallen. Right now, Iranian Qods and IRGC forces are involved in fighting in Iraqi territory while Iraq, on its part, is keeping Iran’s interests closely guarded.

And as befits the Rouhani presidency, money is a key issue and Baghdad seems geared to become a business partner for Tehran’s economic ambitions.Iran’s interests in Iraq are mostly economic – it wants to export its gas across the border, since the regime is short on cash. Also, the two countries want to team up and take on the Saudis in the international oil market.

This situation should alarm everyone in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. Iran, riding on waves of its smile diplomacy, is gaining strength, both politically and economically. It wants to sell weapons to Iraq (Iraq Is actually buying weapons from the US) and to expand its control over the region.

Iran’s influence in Lebanon and Syria are long-standing: its influence in Iraq is still in its infancy but Iran needs to take control over Iraq quickly – a weak Iraq will create pockets of unruly terrorism close to Iran and a strong Iraq will place its Sunni might against Shia Iran.

Furthermore, Iraq is much closer to home and fits in with Iran’s world vision of dominating the Middle East. You can expect a lot of Iranian shadow diplomacy in Baghdad in which diplomats and Qods forces will pull strings and set up infrastructures of rule.

 

 

Iranian Diplomats Under Fire, Again

under fire First Beirut, Now Yemen

Yes, Rouhani’s smile diplomacy is very effective. But that isn’t stopping Tehran’s longstanding link with terrorism from taking more and more lives – including Iranian diplomats’ lives.

Since late November, Beirut has been rocked by a series of at least four terrorist bombings against Iran directly – its embassy – and indirectly through Hezbollah “territory.”

Beirut is the tip of the iceberg: A few thousand miles away, an Iranian diplomat was recently killed in Yemen by a “terrorist group”. Frustrated, Tehran has linked all the terrorist attacks to Al-Qaeda and Saudi Arabia (and intends to lodge a formal complaint against Riyadh for its alleged involvement).

This cycle of violence seems far from over.

Zarif Attacks

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif attempts to refocus the blame. Iran, he said, was ready to “reveal evidence of sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East” – specifically in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.

As for the attack in Yemen, he emphasized that the foreign ministry is putting a lot of pressure – “successfully” – on Yemen to “bring the assassins to justice“.

Zarif also dropped a bomb of his own at Davos by redefining the strength of Tehran’s bond with Hezbollah – none. Not only did he deny “sending” Hezbollah to Syria, he added that it was “preposterous to suggest that Tehran was supporting extremist groups fighting in Syria”.

Preposterous…

Iranians understand terrorism very well – particularly the value of diplomats as high-profile victims. Their diplomats in hot-spot countries understand this as well, and probably wish they would get transfer orders ASAP. They’re at the mercy of Zarif, who would like to have it both ways but won’t be allowed to do so – neither by the Syrian opposition, nor by the Al-Qaeda splinter groups.

That’s the price of riding the tiger. Poor Iranian diplomats.

The Case of Thailand: Iran’s Diplomatic Underworld

thailand no remorse

A look at the state of diplomacy between Iran and Thailand reflects just how complicated relations with Tehran can be. Instead of straightforward activity to solidify bilateral ties, the observant will findlayer upon layer ofinfrastructure serving terrorism and subversion. Diplomats, spies,forgers, tourists, terrorists and drug dealers alllive in harmony in this underworld– and sometimes even complement each other.

Iranian Terrorist Wave: A Reminder

As this blog previously detailed back on February 14 2012 three Iranian nationals who intended to assassinate Israeli diplomats in Thailand were apprehended after their C-4 bombs accidently exploded in Bangkok (a few weeks earlier an operative for the Iranian-supported Hezbollah was also arrestedin the Thai capital for bomb-making activities). In August 2013 aThai court sentenced the two convicted terrorists to life imprisonment and 15 years in jail, respectively.

The planned attacks in Bangkok were part of a year-longIranian terrorist wave against American, Saudi and Israeli diplomatic targets which also included Azerbaijan, Pakistan, India, Georgia and Washington DC.

Role of Iranian Embassy

Despite the prominent involvement of Iranian nationals, Tehran denied any connectionto the Thai incident. Furthermore, its embassy in Bangkok also refused to assist the localpolice concerning the suspects, as if they were from another country. This refusal to cooperate included with regard to the whereabouts of a fourth suspect, Leila Rohani, who had rented the house for the terrorists and their bombs and managed to flee to Tehran.

But all this doesn’t mean the Iranian Embassy was inactive. Even before they presumably worked overtime to secure release of the suspects, behind the scenes Iranian diplomats laid the groundwork for a bilateral prisoner extradition agreement. Such an agreement would guarantee that tough-luck Iranian terror operatives, caught in the act, could serve most of their sentences among the comforts of home.

We understand that the extradition agreement eventually reached (translation from Thai attached) was finally ratified by Tehran only in April 2012 – two months after the botched terrorist attack (even though it was originally signed a year before, in February 2011).So while efforts to hammer out the agreement were most probably also connected with the abundance of Iranian drug dealers serving life terms in Thai jails (approximately 160 Iranian nationals are imprisoned in Thailand), the urgency with which it was ratified is much more incriminating.

At least that’s how this development is viewed by the convicted terrorists’ Bangkok lawyer, who’s betting on extradition for his clients as well:

 “They will initially serve their sentences in Thailand, but Thailand and Iran have a prisoner exchange treaty so they could seek to serve their remaining terms in their homeland after a period of time.”

Thanks to Iranian diplomacy, that is.

click here to view thai iran extradition treaty