I really tire of having to be in the position of defending the Ahmadinejad government, but another round of news stories have been released late last week and over the weekend, that are little more than a smear campaign based on a since disproved accusation. Make no mistake, I wanted Mousavi to win the election and I still have hopes for a permanent Reform Movement in Iran. I still hope for some decisive action by the Assembly of Experts against Khamenei. They still have to meet one more time this year. I am deeply disturbed by the continued Revolutionary Guard takeover of government that Ahmadinejad's coalition represents. However, not all terrorist attacks in the world are perpetrated by Iran, and the Argentina AMIA bombing in 1994 has since been shown not likely to be connected to Iran at all.
In July of 1994 terrorists bombed the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and wounding over 300 others. In the immediate aftermath, an emerging story described it as the result of a suicide car bomb planted by Hezbollah agents at the direction of Iran. Members of the Argentine government made these accusations and carried out an investigation and trial of the primary alleged connection, an Argentinian, Carlos Alberto Telleldin. The case of the Argentine government failed to prove anything, and the story was extensively debunked by The Nation magazine most succinctly and comprehensively in January of '08. An outline of the argument presented in that article follows, but for those of you who wish to read the article entirely, here is your link:
The Nation's Bush's Iran/Argentina Terror Frame-Up
The fact that the "wanted by Interpol" line resulted from a Bush Admin effort should give anyone pause. You know, WMDs and slam dunks and all--never let reality interfere with the story you want to tell... This does not stop a constant chorus of people however, from repeating this false accusation and a litany of other assumptions surrounding it as further evidence of Iran's "true nature." They allege that Ahmad Vahidi, the new choice for Iran's Defense Minister, is connected to the AMIA plot. Again, I don't like defending this man, but he's not guilty of what he's been accused of, and false accusations don't help other important efforts to hold a government to account for its misdeeds. In addition, it is important to note that the line you see in most of the stories about Gen. Vahidi and others being wanted by Interpol, well that came about due to pressure from the Bush Administration on its' way out the door in Bush's last year. The process began in the fall of '07, yes '07-- thirteen years after the bombing. This fact is well documented in a January '08 article appearing in The Nation cited above.
The Bush connection to the story is due to the fact that the Bush Administration along with Israel and Argentina pressured Interpol to put Ahmad Vahidi along with five others on a "red list." From The Nation,
This propaganda campaign depends heavily on a decision last November by the General Assembly of Interpol, which voted to put five former Iranian officials and a Hezbollah leader on the international police organization's "red list" for allegedly having planned the July 1994 bombing. But the Wall Street Journal reports that it was pressure from the Bush Administration, along with Israeli and Argentine diplomats, that secured the Interpol vote. In fact, the Bush Administration's manipulation of the Argentine bombing case is perfectly in line with its long practice of using and distorting (sic) manufactured evidence to build a case against its geopolitical enemies.
The Bush Administration pursued this action despite the fact that the head FBI investigator observed about the Argentine bombing that there was no evidence to "implicate Iran in the bombing."
Problem # 1--A Suicide Bombing
Authoritites alleged that the AMIA bombing centered around a white Renault Trafic van as the delivery mechanism for the attack. This theory was supported by one witness, but refuted by many other eye witnesses and blast evidence that failed to correspond with such an explanation. Furthermore, blast patters showed that the explosion most likely occurred inside the AMIA building. ATF explosives expert Charles Hunter authored a report on the blast which described his doubts about the suicide bombing thesis as such, again from The Nation,
Hunter quickly identified major discrepancies between the car-bomb thesis and the blast pattern recorded in photos. He wrote a report two weeks later noting that in the wake of the bombing, merchandise in a store immediately to the right of the AMIA was tightly packed against its front windows and merchandise in another shop had been blown out onto the street--suggesting that the blast came from inside rather than outside. Hunter also said he did not understand how the building across the street could still be standing if the bomb had exploded in front of the AMIA, as suggested by the car-bomb thesis.
Problem # 2--The Patsy
Don't laugh, but the Argentine connection for this plot, the man they put on trial was actually a used-car salesman, Carlos Alberto Telleldin. At times during the investigation Telleldin was offered bribes from $400K to $1M to implicate supposed conspirators, which he refused to do. Again from The Nation,
It is now clear that the Menem government's real purpose in arresting Telleldin was to get him to finger those they wanted to blame for the bombing. In January 1995, Telleldin was visited by retired army Capt. Hector Pedro Vergez, a part-time agent for SIDE, the Argentine intelligence agency, who offered him $1 million and his freedom if he would identify one of five Lebanese nationals detained in Paraguay in September 2004--men the CIA said might be Hezbollah militants--as the person to whom he had sold the van. After Telleldin refused to go along with the scheme, an Argentine judge found that there was no evidence on which to detain the alleged militants.
In 2004, a Bueno Aires court threw out the charges against Telleldin.
Problem #3--The Motive
Terrorist attacks create dramatic and tragic results. They also create fear. In uncertain conditions people believe many things that defy logic. Seriously, what motive would Iran or Hezbollah have to orchestrate such an attack across the world? What does it benefit them to create such mayhem with a country that they have both diplomatic and trade relations? Why would Hezbollah seek revenge in Argentina when they sit on the border of Israel? Hezbollah certainly strikes ruthlessly at their enemies and in defense of Lebanon, but what does Argentina have to do with it? From The Nation,
On March 17, 1992, a bomb blast destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires--an incident for which the Argentine prosecutors also held Iran responsible. The indictment, however, quotes a top official of INVAP, an Argentine nuclear firm that dominated the National Commission on Atomic Energy, as saying that during 1992 there were "contacts" between INVAP and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran "in the expectation that the decision of the national government would be revised, allowing the tasks in the contracts to be resumed." The same official confirmed that negotiations surrounding the two canceled projects continued from 1993 to 1995--before and after the AMIA explosion. Those revelations suggest that the Iranian attitude toward Argentina at the time of the bombing was exactly the opposite of the one claimed in the indictment.
The Hezbollah motive for involvement in the AMIA bombing, according to the indictment, was revenge against the Israeli bombing of a Hezbollah training camp in the Bekaa Valley in early 1994 and the Israeli kidnapping of Shiite leader Mustapha Dirani in May. That theory fails to explain, however, why Hezbollah would choose to retaliate against Jews in Argentina. It was already at war with the Israeli forces in Lebanon, where the group was employing suicide bomb attacks in an effort to pressure Israel to end its occupation. Hezbollah had a second easy retaliatory option available, which was to launch Katyusha rockets across the border into Israeli territory.
The remainder of The Nation article goes on to develop more reasons for the dubious nature of the accusations against Iran. The questionable motives and contacts of accusers, and more importantly again, the overarching Bush strategy to use any reality they chose to invent to pursue a policy goal. Sound familiar?
It is worthwhile reading, especially in the context of the stories I see popping up all over the place about Ahmad Vahidi, and Interpol. These stories are nothing more than a smear campaign based on a falsehood leftover from our friends the Bush Administration. The primary problem with media circumstances like this is that no one will really pay much attention to their details because we generally want to see who they are attacking attacked. The problem I have with this story, beyond the actual falseness of it, is that all it does is reinforce the hard-line attitude in Iran that they are, in fact, attacked unfairly by Western Media, and held to a standard different from other countries, leaders etc. Again, I repeat, I don't like defending Revolutionary Guard types like Vahidi, but if you're going to accuse him of something the accusation better be valid. Argentina's government botched an investigation fifteen years ago, and the fact that they have no other story has no bearing on the invalidity of the accusations against Iran. The other problem now, is that when you botch the initial investigation and hold on to a story line that does not fit, leads you could have investigated tend to go cold. SO, once again the fact that there are no other explanations does not contribute one bit to the false idea of Iran's guilt.
There are many sources out there dealing with this subject on both sides. I relied on The Nation article because it is a respected magazine and the conclusions it draws are not tentative. You can still find many out there who believe Iran is a fault, but like the Argentine government they don't really prove much, and Gareth Porter's reporting for The Nation is way ahead of them.