Commentary Magazine


Topic: AMIA bombing

Re-Open the Lockerbie Case? Not If It Means Facing the Truth About Iran.

Could there be a worse week for new revelations about the 1988 Lockerbie tragedy to be unveiled? The report claiming that Iran rather than Libya was the culprit in the atrocity should raise eyebrows around the globe. But despite the persuasive case made for this theory, don’t expect the United States or any other Western country to heed the new evidence and re-open the case. With both the U.S. and its European allies desperate to reach a new nuclear deal with Tehran that will enable them to halt the sanctions on the Islamist regime, discussions about the true nature of the administration’s diplomatic partner are, to put it mildly, unwelcome. If Washington isn’t interested in drawing conclusions about Iran from the seizure of an arms ship bound for terrorist-run Gaza last week or even the latest threat from its Revolutionary Guard about destroying Israel uttered yesterday, why would anyone think the Obama administration would be willing to rethink its conclusions about a crime that was long thought to be solved?

To be fair to the administration, a lot of time has passed since the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that cost the lives of 259 passengers and crew and 11 persons on the ground. The U.S. and the West put a lot of energy into proving that agents of the Libyan Gaddafi regime were responsible. The Libyans were known state sponsors of terror and had an axe to grind against the U.S. at the time. After the conviction of a Libyan intelligence agent for these murders, even more energy was spent on vainly trying to persuade a Scottish court from letting him go home to Libya, where he eventually died of cancer. Why would anyone in the U.S. government want to admit that we were wrong all these years? Nor would most Americans think an investigation undertaken by a news organization like the reliably anti-American Al Jazeera, no matter how meticulous, would persuade them to rethink their long-held conclusions about the case.

But, as David Horovitz writes persuasively in the Times of Israel, Al Jazeera’s report is based on information from the same Iranian defector that accurately testified about the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina that killed 85 persons. Though the full truth about Lockerbie is yet to be uncovered, Horovitz is right to point out that if we accept the word of former Iranian intelligence agent Abolghasem Mesbahi about Tehran’s terrorist plot in South America, there’s no reason to dismiss his detailed claims about Lockerbie. The pieces here fit too well to allow us to merely shrug and move on.

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Could there be a worse week for new revelations about the 1988 Lockerbie tragedy to be unveiled? The report claiming that Iran rather than Libya was the culprit in the atrocity should raise eyebrows around the globe. But despite the persuasive case made for this theory, don’t expect the United States or any other Western country to heed the new evidence and re-open the case. With both the U.S. and its European allies desperate to reach a new nuclear deal with Tehran that will enable them to halt the sanctions on the Islamist regime, discussions about the true nature of the administration’s diplomatic partner are, to put it mildly, unwelcome. If Washington isn’t interested in drawing conclusions about Iran from the seizure of an arms ship bound for terrorist-run Gaza last week or even the latest threat from its Revolutionary Guard about destroying Israel uttered yesterday, why would anyone think the Obama administration would be willing to rethink its conclusions about a crime that was long thought to be solved?

To be fair to the administration, a lot of time has passed since the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that cost the lives of 259 passengers and crew and 11 persons on the ground. The U.S. and the West put a lot of energy into proving that agents of the Libyan Gaddafi regime were responsible. The Libyans were known state sponsors of terror and had an axe to grind against the U.S. at the time. After the conviction of a Libyan intelligence agent for these murders, even more energy was spent on vainly trying to persuade a Scottish court from letting him go home to Libya, where he eventually died of cancer. Why would anyone in the U.S. government want to admit that we were wrong all these years? Nor would most Americans think an investigation undertaken by a news organization like the reliably anti-American Al Jazeera, no matter how meticulous, would persuade them to rethink their long-held conclusions about the case.

But, as David Horovitz writes persuasively in the Times of Israel, Al Jazeera’s report is based on information from the same Iranian defector that accurately testified about the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina that killed 85 persons. Though the full truth about Lockerbie is yet to be uncovered, Horovitz is right to point out that if we accept the word of former Iranian intelligence agent Abolghasem Mesbahi about Tehran’s terrorist plot in South America, there’s no reason to dismiss his detailed claims about Lockerbie. The pieces here fit too well to allow us to merely shrug and move on.

But the problem isn’t Mesbahi’s credibility or even the embarrassment that a finding that debunked previous Western intelligence work on Lockerbie would cause in Washington and London. Rather, it’s the fact that the defector is pointing the finger at a government that the West wants very much to rehabilitate these days.

The United States and its European allies are deeply invested in the notion that Hassan Rouhani’s victory in Iran’s faux election last year marked a genuine change in the country’s political culture. Justifying a weak interim nuclear deal that granted Iran both significant sanctions relief and a tacit recognition of its “right” to enrich uranium was made possible not only by the arguments about Iran’s supposed desire for a new start with the West but also by a determination by the administration that it wanted to step away from confrontation with Tehran at all costs.

The president is so worried about hurting the delicate feelings of the anti-Semitic government in Tehran that he is willing to veto new sanctions legislation that would have strengthened his hand in the talks. This policy is difficult enough to justify in the face of Iran’s continued support for terrorism, its genocidal threats against Israel (which make its possession of nuclear weapons more than a theoretical security problem), and its long record of diplomatic deception. The last thing the president and Secretary of State Kerry want is to have the Lockerbie case disinterred and for the regime—many of whose leading players were active in the security apparatus at the time—indicted for mass murder of innocent Americans.

So don’t expect anyone in Washington to take the new evidence about Lockerbie seriously or even to pay lip service to the notion of re-opening the case. Horovitz is right that Al Jazeera’s report ought to justify a new investigation that will fearlessly follow the evidence to the guilty parties. But as long as making nice with Iran is one of the diplomatic priorities of the United States, the truth about Lockerbie is likely to be ignored.

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Iran President: a Terrorist, Not a Moderate

The chattering classes have been working overtime this week to sell Americans on the idea that Hassan Rowhani—the winner of the Iranian sham election for president—is not only a moderate but also the harbinger of a chance for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff between the Islamist government and the West. Even if one were to accept the idea that the moderate in a field of candidates hand picked by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is actually a person worthy of the label, the notion that this post brings with it the power to either liberalize Iran or to end its nuclear program is simply false. But, as a report from our former COMMENTARY colleague Alana Goodman in the Washington Free Beacon points out, there’s more proof that Rowhani is up to his neck in the nefarious actions of the regime. It turns out that, as we’ve previously noted, Rowhani was not only an acolyte of Ayatollah Khomenei but deeply involved in the international terrorist wing of Iran’s Islamist movement. As Goodman writes:

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rowhani was on the special Iranian government committee that plotted the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, according to an indictment by the Argentine government prosecutor investigating the case.

The attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) is one of the worst terrorist attacks in recent history with 85 killed and hundreds more wounded. After a lengthy investigation, the evidence uncovered by Argentine authorities pointed directly at the Hezbollah terrorist group and its Iranian masters who made the decision to launch the attack on the Jewish target at a meeting of a committee of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council in August 1993. Khamenei was the head of the group, but one of its members was none other than the person that we are supposed to think is about to change Iran against the supreme leader’s wishes: Hassan Rowhani.

Though Iran’s apologists are unhappy about this revelation, there is no serious effort being made to claim that Rowhani is not guilty or that his role in the crime is being exaggerated. But some of those who have been advocating for the United States to embark upon a new round of dead-end diplomacy because of Rowhani’s rise are bound to argue that the evidence of his past should be ignored or treat it as irrelevant to the question of whether we should consider his election an opportunity for another round of engagement with Iran. That would be a colossal mistake. Understanding Rowhani’s background is crucial to the question of whether he is willing to move Iran back from the nuclear brink and what it tells us should put an end to any hope that he is anything like a moderate.

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The chattering classes have been working overtime this week to sell Americans on the idea that Hassan Rowhani—the winner of the Iranian sham election for president—is not only a moderate but also the harbinger of a chance for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff between the Islamist government and the West. Even if one were to accept the idea that the moderate in a field of candidates hand picked by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is actually a person worthy of the label, the notion that this post brings with it the power to either liberalize Iran or to end its nuclear program is simply false. But, as a report from our former COMMENTARY colleague Alana Goodman in the Washington Free Beacon points out, there’s more proof that Rowhani is up to his neck in the nefarious actions of the regime. It turns out that, as we’ve previously noted, Rowhani was not only an acolyte of Ayatollah Khomenei but deeply involved in the international terrorist wing of Iran’s Islamist movement. As Goodman writes:

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rowhani was on the special Iranian government committee that plotted the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, according to an indictment by the Argentine government prosecutor investigating the case.

The attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) is one of the worst terrorist attacks in recent history with 85 killed and hundreds more wounded. After a lengthy investigation, the evidence uncovered by Argentine authorities pointed directly at the Hezbollah terrorist group and its Iranian masters who made the decision to launch the attack on the Jewish target at a meeting of a committee of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council in August 1993. Khamenei was the head of the group, but one of its members was none other than the person that we are supposed to think is about to change Iran against the supreme leader’s wishes: Hassan Rowhani.

Though Iran’s apologists are unhappy about this revelation, there is no serious effort being made to claim that Rowhani is not guilty or that his role in the crime is being exaggerated. But some of those who have been advocating for the United States to embark upon a new round of dead-end diplomacy because of Rowhani’s rise are bound to argue that the evidence of his past should be ignored or treat it as irrelevant to the question of whether we should consider his election an opportunity for another round of engagement with Iran. That would be a colossal mistake. Understanding Rowhani’s background is crucial to the question of whether he is willing to move Iran back from the nuclear brink and what it tells us should put an end to any hope that he is anything like a moderate.

We will be told that Rowhani’s participation in mass murder should not blind us to the fact that sometimes people change and that former terrorists can become responsible leaders. But such examples (which are rare and often misinterpreted) are generally the product of a genuine change of heart and an ideological shift. And there is no evidence that Rowhani has undergone either.

It should be remembered that Rowhani was an original and fervent supporter of the tyrannical Islamist regime. He has served it well over the decades, including a stint as Iran’s nuclear negotiator during which he bought the country’s nuclear program precious time to get closer to a bomb while pretending to be a reasonable interlocutor.

Rather than an independent force seeking to push the government to liberalize its theocratic control of virtually every aspect of Iranian life or to change its foreign policy, Rowhani has been part of its power structure from the start. This means that in addition to his part in keeping the country an Islamist tyranny, he’s also been part of its effort to commit terrorism in the Middle East and throughout the world. Operating with its Hezbollah auxiliaries, the long reach of Iran’s terror network has killed domestic opponents and Jews in Europe and South America, with the AMIA bombing and the attack on Israel’s Buenos Aires in 1992 being two of the bloodiest.

The mention of Rowhani in the AMIA indictment not only gives the lie to his pose as a moderate, it brands him as a criminal deserving of being tracked down and punished like the many al-Qaeda operatives that have been either captured or killed by American forces.

We doubt Rowhani will ever be brought to justice but the presence of his name on the indictment ought to complicate matters should he decide to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and visit the next meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. Rather than being embraced by an Obama administration that is desperate to avoid a confrontation over keeping the president’s promises to stop Iran, Rowhani must be treated as an international pariah who would be subjected to prosecution should he ever set foot on Western soil.

The AMIA bombing may have been forgotten by much of the Western press and foreign policy establishment that is eager to revive the cause of containing a nuclear Iran rather than preventing it from ever gaining a weapon. But an American government that still treats the battle against international terrorism as one of its priorities cannot afford to sweep this piece of intelligence under the rug. Rather than reach out to Rowhani, the United States must shun him as a murderer.

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