So, Who Murdered Nisman?

It’s been nearly three months but nobody has an answer to this question. Based on the fact that Nisman was murdered for his relentless investigation into the AMIA bombing that remains unsolved since 1994, there is a good chance that Nisman’s murder might remain unsolved as well.

Too much evidence points to Tehran’s involvement in this murder as in the AMIA bombing. And yet, the Iranian suspects which include top officials such as former presidents, wannabe presidents, IRGC commanders, cabinet ministers etc…are all far from even being investigated.

The Argentinian government has bungled it up once again: instead of demanding that Tehran comes clean and allows the Iranian suspects to be investigated, the government first dismissed Nisman’s murder as suicide and then accused political opposition of murdering him just to make de Kirchner look bad.

This is the cost of maintaining diplomatic ties with Iran: innocent people die while government officials are forced to cover up.

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.

Iran’s Problem with Baharain

 

 

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I’ve posted on this blog posts on Iran’s relations with its fellow gulf countries before (“Trouble brewing in the Gulf, “With friends like these 3“, “Iran’s diplomatic duality in the Gulf“, “With friends like these 1“.

This week, Bahrain is taking focus again in that area and once again, it has to do with Iran’s efforts at subversion in the area. On the 28th of April, a Bahraini court sentenced 12 men to a life sentence in prison for spying. The Judges ruled that the men received training from the IRGC in Iran and that they also possessed weapons and explosives.

Furthermore, an article in The Express Tribune reported that: “Bahrain accuses Iran of fueling unrest in the country since a 2011 uprising led by the Shi’ite Muslim community demanding reforms and more share in running the kingdom ruled by the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa dynasty”. This is quite the hefty accusation and it followed similar accusations last year regarding the IRGC setting up a terrorist cell that planned to attack its airport and government buildings.

The response from Tehran was as expected: It denied the allegations, but defended the cause of the Shi’ite opposition. The row between the two countries started a few days before, when the Bahraini Authorities expelled Iraq Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s representative, Hussein al-Najati, in the latest sign of tension with the Shia majority in the Persian Gulf country. “We strongly condemn (such) measures by the al-Khalifa and announce that we will never leave the Bahraini people alone,” said the Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani in a speech in Qom, and added that this is a sign of the Al Khalifa’s fall.

The troubles in Bahrain did not go unnoticed by its neighbor and Iran’s archrival, Saudi Arabia: “Our regional security requires that we, as a Gulf grouping, work to create a real balance of forces with it, including in nuclear knowhow, and to be ready for any possibility in relation to the Iranian nuclear file” said  former Saudi intelligence director Prince Turk Al Faisal to the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies.

So while Iran is succeeding in getting closer to the West, its neighbors are getting wearier of its continued efforts to stir up a Shia opposition from within. This might seem very distant and irrelevant to readers from Europe and America but Iran’s world view is certainly not limited to its neighbors.

Aboutelabi in the Eye of the Storm

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Should Hamid Aboutalebi be viewed as a diplomat or as a suspected participant in terrorism?

The Iranians say that he is to be viewed as a diplomat because they say so and because UN laws bar the US from not issuing visas to UN diplomats.

They aren’t open to discussions on Aboutelabi’s involvement in the American embassy hostage crisis affair in 1979. Neither are they open to discuss his suspected involvement in a political assassination in Italy in 1993 nor do they accept the US’s version of “terrorism”.

Is Aboutelabi innocent of these accusations? We’ll probably never find out because he isn’t available for questioning and the Americans feel that Aboutelabi would have to prove his innocence or at least be willing to go to court in order to get a visa.

Either that or he will have to convince President Obama to rescind the bill he signed that effectively bars him from legally gaining entry to the US.

The Iranians are sticking to their guns and are making a big deal of the question of legality since Aboutelabi is a diplomat who is supposed to work in the UN and is therefore under diplomatic immunity. The UN has agreed to look into the legality of this issue but they are now accused by Iran of “dragging their feet” and not doing so fast enough. It seems that denying Aboutelabi his visa is both legal in accordance to the laws of the US and illegal according to the laws of the UN.

Perhaps the US should let Aboutelabi into the country but simply limit his presence to the airport, the UN and travel in between. It would be a more elegant solution that would probably satisfy both sides.

In any case, his status as an ambassador to the UN vis-à-vis relations with the US is weak under these circumstances.

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!

Aboutalebi Appointment Adds Insult to Injury

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You can say a lot of things about the Iranian regime – but one thing that you must know, is that they have the most twisted sense of humor.

This time, we’re addressing the appointment of the Hamid Aboutalebi as the new Iranian ambassador to the United Nations. Aboutalebi was one of the architects of the American  Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran in 1979-1981 and a key operative behind political assassinations, most notably, that of Mohammad Hossein Naghdi in Italy in 1993.

But, this joke is not funny anymore and the US Senate approved a bill to bar the ambassador to the United Nations from entering the United States.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz went as far as saying that the “nomination is a deliberate and unambiguous insult to the United States”.

This incident went as high as the White House – Press Secretary Jay Carney called the potential nomination of Hamid Aboutalebi “extremely troubling”. Later, Carney said that the white house sent a message to the Iranian government saying that this choice is “not viable”. On a side note, it’s nice to see that the Iranians can bring together the Republicans and the democrats…

The Iranians, who apparently thought that they can do whatever they want and get away with it (It’s been working quite alright for them so far…) are trying to calm the matter down –in an interview he gave beforehand, Aboutalebi tried to tell his version of the story, that he was only helping in translation to the terrorists.

Cut to the chase: Iran seems to have enough accomplished diplomats and choosing Aboutalebi to serve in New York is either a bad idea or a great way to taunt the US, both option being unecessary at a time when Iran and the West seem to be getting along so well.

Iran-Backed Terrorism In Turkey

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Tawhid-Salam – Remember This Name. 

Most people don’t know yet what Tawhid-Salam is but then again, few had heard of Al Qaeda before 9/11. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t  heard of Tawhid-Salam until about 3 weeks ago but since then, this name has popped up again and again as a growing terrorist group emerging in Turkey and backed by and well connected to, once again, Iran.

In fact, after a 3-year investigation including 234 people who were wiretapped, Tawhid-Salam was named “the stealthiest and the most dangerous terrorist organization of recent times” according to Former İstanbul Police Department intelligence bureau chief Ali Fuat Yılmazer.

 

Terrorists With Top Connections

The relationship between Iran and Turkey has had many ups and downs but can be summed up in one sentence: Tehran has many friends in Turkey who are beneficial economically and politically. As far as money is concerned, it might be worth your while to re-read my article on Iran’s involvement in Turkey’s Gold Scandal from December 29th that involved numerous high ranking officials in Turkey.

It seems that Tawhid-Salam is also very well connected: According to Yılmazer, the police managed to “expose the wider network of Iranian agents that has been set up in Turkey and discovered connections to senior government officials”. These connections include Interior Minister Efkan Ala, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan and Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay to name a few.

 

Links to Quds Forces and the Iranian Consulate

Tawhid-Salam’s track record is “impressive” and includes assassinations of Iranian opposition leaders and Turkish journalists/intellectuals as well as American, Saudi and Israeli diplomats.

The group has alsoconducted surveillance of the US consulate and drawn “plans of the Nuclear Research Institute in İstanbul’s Halkalı neighborhood” and delivered them to Iranian intelligence. Some of these activities were video-taped by the police as part of the investigation.

Tawhid-Salam was first identified in 1996 but has been systematically protected and covered up for over 20 years by various Turkish officials. Hakkı Selçuk Şanlı, one of the group founders, admitted in 2000 that organization members were trained in Iran “to stage attacks in Turkey and conduct intelligence operations on behalf of Iran”. He also added that he had supplied IRGC Quds forces with bombs for attacks in Georgia and Thailand from a storage unit rented by an Iranian Quds operative, Rızazade Metin.

Their contacts with Quds forces were facilitated by their contact in the Iranian Consulate – Naser Ghafari.

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…

Tehran’s Glass House Syndrome 2 – Terrorism In The Eye Of The Beholder

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Iran is Against Terrorism?

It always seems strange to hear Iranian leaders speaking against terrorism while Tehran supports and feeds a number of terrorist organizations.

What seems stranger is that the more involved Iran is with terrorist organizations and actions, the more its diplomats and leaders bad-mouth terrorism.

Subversion and Terrorism in Lebanon

An Iranian delegation in Lebanon is trying to find ways to “confront…uncontrolled terrorism” while the Iranian ambassador in Lebanon, Ghazanadar Roknabadi “reiterated…that his country is ready to contribute with any kind of aid to Lebanon in its war against terrorism”.

Tehran’s definition of “fight against terrorism” is simple: anyone ready to kill and die for an opinion different from Iran’s is a terrorist, and therefore Iran is fighting many terrorists. They use terror to fight these so called terrorists.

Suffice to mention that Iran is in virtual control of Lebanon through its Hezbollah proxy-terrorist stronghold over the country at an estimated cost to the Iranian taxpayers of  $1 billion a year.

Subversion and Terrorism in Syria

Meanwhile, Iran is pledging to provide humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees while at the same time reinforcing support to the Syrian resistance (meaning Assad) thus causing refugees. In the same breath they blame the “flow of arms by the US terrorists” for the “spread of terrorism in the region and across the world”.

Again, one should remember that Iran is physically, economically and financially involved in the Syrian civil war through Hezbollah and IRGC troops as well as billions of dollars worth of arms shipments and bank guarantees.

Subversion and Terrorism in Iraq

And while Iran is moaning and groaning about terrorist factions working in and from Iraq, Iranian IRGC and Qods generals, including Qassem Suleimani himself, are visibly staking out Baghdad , heading at least three Tehran-backed militia brigades: Kataib HezbollahAsaib al-Haq and the “Promised Day Brigades“.

Formally, Iran is trying to deter Sunni terrorists but Iraq’s potential to buy Iranian weapons and its huge Shi’a population are definitely major targets for Iranian shadow diplomacy as always.

Subversion and Terrorism in Pakistan

Of course, the biggest target for Sunni terrorism can be found in Saudi Arabia but unlike Baghdad, Riyadh is not playing ball with Tehran.

In fact, Saudi Arabia is not sitting idly by as Iran makes its moves – they try to garner their own set of regional allies. As Iran is successfully wooing its Gulf neighbors (specially Kuwait, Oman and the UAE), Saudi Arabia is extending its friendship to countries such as Pakistan, much to the displeasure of Tehran.

Having inked a security agreement with Pakistan last month, Iranian diplomats were visibly upset when a terrorist group from Pakistan abducted five Iranian border guards and two weeks later, an additional Pakistani terrorist tried to blow up the Iranian consulate in Pakistan.

Tehran’s Glass House Syndrome

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It starts, as always, with a bang. A rather big bang, that is still heard days later. We’re talking of course on the twin explosions that rocked Beirut on the 19th of October, Killing four people and leaving 38 wounded.

The explosion, which was carried by a car bomb and a motorcycle laden with explosives, targeted an Iranian cultural center, the 2nd time in 3 months that Iranian institutes are attacked in the Lebanese capital.

Although Tehran officials quickly assured that there were no Iranian diplomats or personnel affected by the bombing, it raises a question: Why is Iran being targeted? What makes it and its out-of-country establishments prone to terror attacks?

Well, Iran has been very active as of late in the international front – trying to get back with diplomatic ties with several countries (while discussing Syria). But what might be more important, is the active role that the Islamic republic takes when it comes to the Syrian civil war.

This active role is not simply in the demand Iran is making to be a part of the team that decides on Syria’s future. Iran has been supporting Assad, not only vocally in the news but with military forces going from Iran to the Syrian battlefields.

Although Iran’s efforts at subversion in neighboring countries are not new, their outcries against Al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia, although probably justified, make me think of the saying “people in glass houses should not throw stones”. Or in Tehran’s case, “people who throw stones should live in stone houses and expect to be hurt”.