Was Iran Behind Bombing of Argentinian Jewish Community Center?

The BBC has an interesting story about a diplomatic row between Argentina and Iran over the worst terrorist attack ever in Argentina. In 1994 somebody detonated a car bomb that destroyd a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people.

Argentina has long suspected that Iran was behind the bombing, but it recently put its cards on the table by issuing arrest warrants for four Iranian officials including,

  • Ali Fallahian, the former Iranian intelligence minister
  • Mohsen Rabbani, the former cultural attache at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires
  • Ali Balesh Abadi, a diplomat
  • Ali Akbar Parvaresh, a former education minister

Iran denies the accusation, but it doesn’t help its case by appealing to the saem lame excuse that Middle Eastern governments always used when accused of wrongdoing — it’s just a bunch of “baseless allegations” invented by the Israelis.

Besides there’s the little problem of phone calls intercepted from the Iranian embassy in 1998 which established beyond much doubt that Iran had been involved in the bombing. Argentina expelled several Iranian diplomats at that time, but its investigation into which specific individuals were responsible for the attack stalled.

What’s changed in the meantime? In September 2001 en individuals went on trial in Argentina for havin gassissted in the bombing. These were mostly Argentinian police who were accused of taking bribes to protect a stolen car ring that the terrorists used to purchase the car ultimately used in the bomb plot. Of course there’s alwasy been suspicion that the police may have been more directly involved, especially given the rather large amounts of money that exchanged hands (one of those accused receieved a $2.5 million bribe). Perhaps that trial and its aftermath led to new leads.

Either way this episode illustrates that while George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” characterization may be a bit overblown and simplistic, Iran has been an active sponsor of terrorism in foreign countries and after Iraq is likely the biggest threat in that region (which is why supporting internal efforts to liberalize should be a major policy goal of the United States).

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