By Toby Dershowitz
One year ago today, on January 27, 2013, Argentina announced a memorandum of understanding with Iran for a “truth commission” to investigate the 1994 Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) bombing that killed 85 — the most deadly terrorist attack on Argentine soil. It was effectively a reversal of Argentina’s support for the years of work conducted by special AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman.
The commission is widely viewed as a way for the two countries to increase cooperation– perhaps even on nuclear issues – while exonerating the officials implicated in the bombing.
Nisman’s exhaustive reports concluded that the attack was approved in a secret meeting on August 14, 1993 attended by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, Foreign Minister Ali Velayati, and Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian. On March 15, 2007, Interpol issued red notices for these senior figures who have since risen through the ranks, including several on Rouhani’s watch in the first six months of his presidency:
Ali Fallahian was Iran’s minister of intelligence at the time of the AMIA attack. Today, he is an elected member of Iran’s influential Assembly of Experts.
Mohsen Rezai was the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) at the time of the attack. Today, Rezai is secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, and was one of the six approved to run for president in 2013.
Mohsen Rabbani helped Iran build its terrorist network in Latin America for 11 years before the attack while serving as Iran’s cultural attaché in Buenos Aires. Today, Rabbani is reportedly cultivating Iranian supporters through radicalization programs for Latin American students. One of Rabbani’s disciples, Abdul Kadir, participated in a failed plot to attack the fuel lines at New York’s JFK airport.
Ahmad Vahidi led the IRGC’s Quds Force at the time of the attack. He became defense minister in 2009. Vahidi was named director of the Armed Forces Joint Command Council Strategic Defense Research Center on Rouhani’s watch.
Ahmad Reza Asghari, a member of the IRGC, was the third secretary at Iran’s Embassy in Argentina from 1989 until 1994. Asghari was employed by a front company operated by the IRGC, but laterpursued a career as researcher at Iran’s Foreign Ministry.
Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran’s foreign minister at the time of attack, was indicted in 2006 by an Argentine judge and an international arrest warrant was issued. A presidential candidate in 2013, he is a senior advisor to Supreme Leader Khamenei. In November 2013, Rouhani tapped him to become head of the Center for Strategic Research of Iran’s Expediency Council, which is widely seen as President Hassan Rouhani’s internal think tank.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was president when the attack was planned, was indicted by an Argentine judge, as well. He is today the chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council of Iran.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif this month visited the grave of Hezbollah international operations chief Imad Mughniyah, who directed the AMIA bombing. Amidst promises of moderation, Zarif’s visit and the professional clout bestowed upon those associated with the attack raise questions of whether ties to terrorism is a net positive or negative for Rouhani regime officials, and casts doubt as to whether terrorism is truly a tool of Iran’s past. As the truth commission evolves, how Rouhani regards those implicated in the AMIA attack will be instructive.
Toby Dershowitz is vice president for government relations and strategy at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.