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Terrorism Tehran-style

By Ted Lapkin - posted Wednesday, 31 January 2007

You know it's not business as usual when prosecutors from one country file a criminal indictment against another country's head of state.

But that's precisely what happened late last year when Argentine authorities laid terrorism charges against former Iranian president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani.

In open court, Rafsanjani and other retired Iranian government officials were formally accused of masterminding the bombing of a Jewish community centre in 1994. The AMIA building in Buenos Aires was flattened in an explosion that killed 85 people and wounded more than 200 other civilians.


Chief Prosecutor Alberto Nisman believes the foot soldiers who carried out the attack were Hezbollah operatives from Lebanon. But Argentine investigators also found ample evidence to indicate orders for the bombing were signed, sealed and delivered from Tehran.

Police are convinced the TNT used to make the AMIA truck bomb was smuggled into Buenos Aires through the Iranian embassy's diplomatic pouch. And the indictment stipulates the Islamic republic's intelligence officers were intimately involved in the process of target selection and mission planning.

These arrest warrants dispel any notion this act of terrorism might have been the unsanctioned work of an unauthorised cabal in Tehran. Rather than a rogue operation, the arrest warrants requested by Argentine prosecutors reveal an official rogue's gallery that extends to the highest echelons of Iranian government.

Beyond Rafsanjani, this wanted list includes the names of former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velyati, intelligence minister Ali Fallahian and Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezai. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenai was also implicated in the planning sessions for the bombing attack, but escaped indictment through the principle of sovereign immunity.

Yet the AMIA bombing is hardly the only case in which Tehran employed its Hezbollah surrogates to score political points through the murder of foreign civilians. In the 1980s, Hezbollah kidnapped dozens of American, French and British hostages in a self-declared campaign to rid Lebanon of Western influence. Many of those abducted diplomats, journalists and teachers were executed by their captors.

When the string of airline hijackings and overseas bombings committed by Hezbollah are added to its organisational portfolio, the portrait of the Lebanese Shi'ite militia becomes uglier still. But despite countless litres of innocent blood on its hands, Hezbollah's defenders insist the movement does not engage in terrorism.


Just last year, a veritable who's who of Australia's Islamic leadership demanded Hezbollah be removed from the Commonwealth's list of proscribed terrorist organisations. During the latest conflict in Lebanon, members of the Government's Muslim Reference Group expressed frustration over the Prime Minister's refusal to countenance their petition.

To categorise Hezbollah as a terrorist group was unjust, argued Reference Group chairman Ameer Ali, because such a classification puts the Shi'ite militia "on par with al-Qaida, when it is totally different".

But there is no valid distinction to be made between bombing a community centre in Buenos Aires and blowing up commuter trains in London or Madrid. For too many years, too many in Australia's Islamic community have been trying to have their cake and eat it too. The Muslim leadership regularly trafficks in a form of double speak that condemns or condones suicide terrorism on the basis of political convenience and affinity.

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First published in The Courier-Mail on January 21, 2007.

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About the Author

Ted Lapkin is associate editor of The Review, a monthly journal of analysis and opinion put out by the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, AIJAC.

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