Merchant of Death
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Iran's Cynicism in the Face of Terrorism
One of the clearest signs of the danger that the Iranian presence poses in Latin America is the decision by president Ahmadinejad to name one of the masterminds of the 1994 AMIA bombings as minister of defense.

Ahamd Vahidi, who at the time of the bombing was the head of the Quds Force, is the subject of an Interpol Red Notice, asking for his arrest for his part in the worst terrorist attack in Latin America.

He was deputy defense minister in Ahmadinejad's first government, and is now being promoted. Seven other senior Iranian officials are subject of Interpol Red Notices as well.

Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor who has spent years investigating the case (and presenting enough evidence to Interpol to get the Red Notice issued), called Vahidi "a key participant in the planning and of having made the decision to go ahead with the attack."

"It has been demonstrated that Vahidi participated in and approved of the decision to attack AMIA during a meeting in Iran on August 14, 1993. Iran has always protected terrorists, giving them government posts, but I think never one as high as this one," Nisman told the Associated Press.

Given Iran's rapidly-expanding and largely opaque diplomatic presence in Latin America and the history of Iranian diplomatic missions in housing Quds Force special operatives and Hezbollah, this is a bad sign indeed.

With a large and unmonitored diplomatic presence in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, Iran has positioned itself for spreading mischief throughout the region. It is not happenstance that these resources are being spent in a continent where Iran has historically had no presence, no cultural affinity and no strategic interests.

What it does have is a marketable expertise in asymmetrical warfare, intelligence gathering and terrorism, and a shared hatred for the United States with Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Daniel Ortega.

And crossing Iran can be dangerous.

Argentina's crime, in the eyes of Iran at the time, was to refuse to cut off the transfer of nuclear technology to Iran. The result was Iranian retaliation.

For a fascinating look at the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah, see this fascinating translation of two statements, one by Hezbollah and one by a senior Iranian official, of their mutual dependence and structure.

As one can read, Naim Qassem, Hezbollah's deputy commander, says "the Imam Khamenei (Iran's highest authority) is the one who "decides general guidelines for us, which free us from blame and give us legitimacy."

So it was in the AMIA bombings. The Iranian leadership (including Vahidi) decided on the action, and franchised out the actual execution to Hezbollah, with the resulting 85 people dead.

Ahmadinejad's willingness to spend precious political capital internally and externally by naming Vahidi to a highly public post shows how important it is for his regime to keep their ability to execute state terrorism operational at a very high level. (He has dismissed protests of Vahidi's naming to the cabinet as part of "a Zionist plot).

This is not an accidental nomination, but one that should set off alarm bells across Latin America.
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