WASHINGTON — Nearly two decades after Middle Eastern terrorism left its devastating calling card in South America, special prosecutor Alberto Nisman issued a searing 500-page indictment drawing meticulous and harrowing connections between Iran and Islamic radicalism in the Western Hemisphere.
Going beyond the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which killed 87 people and injured more than 100, Nisman painted a picture of Iran and Hezbollah’s vast network of sleeper cells in America’s backyard conducting “activities you wouldn’t imagine” or waiting indefinitely to receive an order to attack, the prosecutor told reporters when he unveiled his report in late May.
Nisman first accused Iran and Hezbollah of being behind the terrorist attack several years ago. But his new report details the infiltration of several Latin American countries through intricate intelligence networks and stresses that the AMIA bombing was just one cog in a greater plan: “a segment in a larger sequence.”
Congress wants to hear from Nisman about his investigation, and he’s willing to come to Washington to talk not only with lawmakers but the Obama administration.
But Argentina is now blocking the tenacious prosector from sharing his findings with Congress.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), former chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and current chairwoman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, invited Nisman — “a well-recognized, towering figure when it comes to going after bad guys and human-rights violators” — to brief Congress, she told PJM on Tuesday.
“People just don’t know that Iran sees Latin America as fertile ground,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “…I invited him to come. He was going to come educate Congress and the administration on the real threat Iran poses.”
“Few people if any know about this bombing, which should have acted as a wake-up call for us on Iran,” she added in reference to Nisman’s original subject of investigation.
Nisman was also sought by the House Homeland Security Committee, which scheduled a hearing titled “Threat to the Homeland: Iran’s Extending Influence in the Western Hemisphere” next Tuesday at the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency. The panel’s chairman, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), tweeted, “I invited AMIA prosecutor Nisman to testify about Iran’s influence in western hemp but Argentine gov denied his request. Not transparent.”
According to Argentine media, Nisman was ordered by Prosecutor General Alejandra Gils Carbó to not talk to Congress because the testimony “is not related to the function of the public prosecutor.”
The government then “clarified” that it was an issue of approving travel costs.
But the Argentine government’s historical lack of forthrightness surrounding the AMIA bombing — and recent coziness with Iran on the investigation — just leads to suspicion over President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s true intentions in keeping Nisman bottled up.
Her husband, late President Nestor Kirchner, admitted in 2005 that the government covered up evidence to stymie the investigation into the attack. After that apology came Nisman’s first accusation pointing toward Hezbollah and Iran, eventually naming the shot-callers as Mohsen Rabbani, Iran’s cultural attaché to Buenos Aires at the time of the bombing and the alleged coordinator of Iranian cells across the continent; Mohsen Rezai, currently Iran’s secretary of the Expediency Council; Ali Akbar Velayati, minister of foreign affairs at the time of the attack; then-President Hashemi Rafsanjani; then-Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian; and, as the final stamp of approval, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Interpol red alert notices are active for Rabbani, Fallahian and Rezai. Upon protest from Iran in 2007, Interpol’s executive committee agreed not to issue red notices for Rafsanjani and Velayati.