As Iran chooses a new president this week, the activities of its powerful intelligence services have also been kicking into high gear across the globe. The U.S. State Department’s annual terrorism report, released May 30, headlined the “marked resurgence” of Iran’s terrorist activities — and with good reason. “Iran and Hizballah’s terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s, with attacks plotted in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa,” the report reads. And that’s before we even get to Iran and Hezbollah’s active support for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown against his own people.
But that’s not all. Closer to the United States, Iran not only continues to expand its presence and bilateral relationships with countries like Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, but it also maintains a network of intelligence agents specifically tasked with sponsoring and executing terrorist attacks in the Western Hemisphere.
The same day the State Department released its report, highly respected Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who served as special prosecutor for the investigation into the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, released a 500-page document laying out how the Iranian regime has, since the early 1980s, built and maintained “local clandestine intelligence stations designed to sponsor, foster and execute terrorist attacks” in the Western Hemisphere.
Nisman found evidence that Iran is building intelligence networks identical to the one responsible for the bombings in Argentina across the region — from Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, and Colombia to Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname.
Nisman’s 2006 report on the AMIA bombing already demonstrated how Iran established a robust intelligence network in South America in the early 1980s. One document, seized during a court-ordered raid of the residence of an Iranian diplomat north of Buenos Aires, included a map denoting areas populated by Muslim communities and suggested an Iranian strategy to export Islam into South America — and from there to North America. Highlighting areas densely populated by Muslims, the document informed that these “will be used from Argentina as the center of penetration of Islam and its ideology towards the North American continent.”
Nisman concluded that the driving force behind Iran’s intelligence efforts in Argentina was Mohsen Rabbani, an Iranian who lived in Argentina for 11 years and played a key role in the Islamic Republic’s intelligence operations in South America. Rabbani, the primary architect of the AMIA plot, reportedly had come from Iran for the express purpose of heading the state-owned al-Tawhid mosque in Buenos Aires, but he also served as a representative of the Iranian Ministry of Agriculture, which was tasked with ensuring the quality of Argentine meat exported to Iran. The Argentine prosecutor reported that Rabbani began laying the groundwork for his spy network after arriving in the country in 1983. Indeed, just prior to his departure for South America, Rabbani met Abolghasem Mesbahi, an Iranian intelligence official who would later defect, and explained to Mesbahi that he was being dispatched to Argentina “in order to create support groups for exporting the Islamic revolution,” according to Nisman’s 2006 report.