US using 1994 Argentine bombing investigation to pressure Iran
However close the "Filipino Monkey" came to starting an international incident between the US and Iran, Bush administration officials are signaling that they will continue to put pressure on the rogue country.
The US is using an international criminal investigation into a 1994 terrorist attack in Argentina to keep Tehran in duress.
The Wall Street Journal reveals the Bush administration's behind-the-scenes machinations to encourage the 14-year-old probe, which claims Iranian agents planned the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.
"One U.S. goal is to cause legal problems for some of Iran's political leaders," report Jay Solomon and Evan Perez. "Administration officials also hope to use the matter to highlight Iran's alleged role in financing and supporting terrorism around the world."
The news comes less than two weeks after a confrontation between US Navy warships and small Iranian speedboats that resulted in several days of bellicose warnings and hostile rhetoric toward Iran from President Bush and members of his administration. Late last week it was acknowledged that the "threats" the Navy initially thought were coming from the Iranians could have been broadcast from virtually anywhere and may have been the result of a prankster known as the "Filipino Monkey."
President Bush continues to view Iran with a wary eye and continues to call the country a threat, despite a recent intelligence report that concluded the country likely abandoned its nuclear weapons program several years ago.
Administration officials are now telling Solomon and Perez that the 1994 bombing "serves as a model for how Tehran has used its overseas embassies and relationships with foreign militant groups, in particular Hezbollah, to strike at its enemies," the two report.
There have been many arrests but no convictions in the investigation of the bombing. Iran and Hezbollah have been suspected in the attack for years, and formal charges were filed against them in 2006. Both vehemently deny any involvement.
US diplomats, working with their counterparts from Israel and Argentina, convinced the international police agency Interpol to issue "red notices" against five former and current Iranian officials. The most-wanted orders, which were issued last November, will prevent the Iranians from leaving their home country, but neither the US nor Interpol can force Tehran to hand them over, report Solomon and Perez.
Iranian diplomats call the Argentine investigation a "propaganda act" orchestrated by the US and Israel, who are more concerned with rolling back Iran's nuclear program, according to the Journal.
"Among those placed on Interpol's most-wanted listed are: Ali Fallahian, Iran's former intelligence chief; Mohsen Rezai, a former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps; and Ahmad Vahidi, a Revolutionary Guards general who currently serves as Iran's deputy defense minister," Solomon and Perez report. "Interpol also issued a red notice for Imad Mugniyah, a Lebanese national alleged to have commanded the covert terrorist wing of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia and political party that is tied to Iran."
Whether the Iranian officials ever face prosecution remains to be seen, but the continued investigation should at least keep them contained within their own country's borders.
"Iran is not compelled in any way to abide by" the red notices, an Interpol official told the Journal. "If the subjects never leave the country, they're not at risk."