You know it’s not business as usual when prosecutors from one nation file a criminal indictment against another nation’s chief of state. But that’s precisely what happened in late October when Argentine authorities laid terrorism charges against former Iranian President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani.
In open court, Rafsanjani and other retired Iranian government officials were formally accused of masterminding the bombing of a Jewish community centre in July 1994. The AMIA building in Buenos Aires was flattened in an explosion that killed 85 innocent people and wounded over 200 other civilians.
The foot soldiers who actually carried out the attack were Hezbollah operatives from Lebanon. But Argentine government prosecutors found ample evidence to indicate that orders for the bombing were signed, sealed and delivered directly from Teheran.
The TNT used to construct the AMIA truck bomb was allegedly smuggled into Buenos Aires through the Iranian Embassy’s diplomatic pouch. And the Islamic Republic’s intelligence officers were allegedly intimately involved in the process of target selection and mission planning.
The indictment dispels any notion that this quintessential act of terrorism might have been the unsanctioned work of an unauthorised cabal in Teheran. Rather than a rogue operation, the arrest warrants requested by Argentine prosecutors reveal an official rogue’s gallery that extends to the highest echelons of the Iranian government.
Beyond Rafsanjani, this wanted list also includes the names of former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velyati, Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian, and Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezai. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei also participated in the planning sessions for the bombing attack, but escaped indictment through the principle of sovereign immunity.
Yet the AMIA bombing is hardly the only case in which Teheran employed its Hezbollah surrogates to score political points through the murder of foreign civilians. Throughout the 1980s, Teheran’s Hezbollah surrogates kidnapped over 40 American, French and British hostages in a self-declared campaign to rid Lebanon of Western influence. At least 10 of those abducted diplomats, journalists and teachers were executed by their captors.
When the string of airline hijackings and overseas bombings committed by Hezbollah are added to its organisational portfolio, the portrait of the Lebanese Shi’ite militia becomes uglier still. But despite countless litres of innocent blood on its hands, Hezbollah’s defenders insist that the movement does not engage in terrorism.
A veritable who’s who of Australia’s Islamic leadership recently took to the streets with a demand that Hezbollah be removed from Australia’s list of proscribed terrorist organisations. During the conflict between Israel and Lebanon, members of the Muslim Reference Group expressed frustration over the Prime Minister’s refusal to countenance their petition.
To categorise Hezbollah as a terrorist group was unjust,” argued Reference Group chair Dr. Ameer Ali, because such a classification puts the Shi’ite militia “on par with al-Qaeda, when it is totally different.” *
But the definition of terrorism should be self-evident to any right-minded person. It is simply the intentional infliction of military-calibre violence against civilians out of ideological motives. Nothing more and nothing less.
And by that objective measure there is no valid distinction to be made between bombing a community centre in Buenos Aires and blowing up commuter trains in London or Madrid.
Through their support for Hezbollah, ‘mainstream’ Islamic leaders cannot avoid the suggestion that all Jews, everywhere and anywhere, are legitimate targets for violence. Could it be that some prominent Muslim moderates in Australia aren’t quite so moderate after all?
(* In the print version of this article, the comments above made by Muslim Reference Group chairman Dr. Ameer Ali were mistakenly attributed to Reference Group Delegate Mr. Mustapha Kara-Ali. AIJAC apologises to Mr. Kara-Ali and our readers for the error.)