Matthew Levitt: Iranian Doublespeak on the Anniversary of the AMIA Bombing





The writer directs the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and is the author of the forthcoming book Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s ‘Party of God.’

Seventeen years ago this week, Hezbollah operatives working closely with Iranian intelligence blew up the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and wounding 300 more. Now, after years of obstructing investigation into the attack, Iran claims it is ready to “engage in constructive dialogue” with Argentina about the case, but insists that talk of an Iranian link is nothing more than “plots and political games.”

In fact, it is Iran that is playing games.

Argentinean authorities conducted an extensive investigation into the AMIA attack, with significant international cooperation, and concluded that “the decision to carry out the AMIA attack was made, and the attack was orchestrated, by the highest officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the time, and that these officials instructed Lebanese Hezbollah – a group that has historically been subordinated to the economic and political interests of the Tehran regime – to carry out the attack.”

Iran and Hezbollah each had their own reasons for wanting to attack Israeli or Jewish targets in Argentina in 1994, as they had just two years earlier when they bombed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. At the time, Tehran was furious over Buenos Aires’ decision to cease all nuclear cooperation with Iran in 1992 for fear that Iran’s nuclear program was not limited to peaceful purposes. In 1994, Argentina terminated its nuclear cooperation. Hezbollah, meanwhile, sought to avenge the Israeli assassination of its leader, Abbas Moussawi, in 1992, and then Israel’s capture of Hezbollah ally Mustapha Dirani in Southern Lebanon in May 1994. Such coincidence of interests, coupled with Hezbollah’s prized status as Tehran’s primary proxy, and operational considerations such as Argentina’s porous borders, Iran’s heavy diplomatic and intelligence presence there, and the existence of a strong Hezbollah financial/logistical support network in South America, all combined to make Argentina a particularly attractive target for Iranian intelligence and Hezbollah operatives…



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