The Iranian Infiltration of Latin America, Part 2

Below is the second of several parts of a summary of prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s much longer report on the 1994 bombing of the AMIA center in Buenos Aires, which was released at the end of May. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies issued the 31-page summary (pdf) when the larger report was published. (Previously: Part 1)

A word to readers who have emailed me about the quality of the prose in the FDD report: yes, the text is less than ideal in its syntax and phrasing. However, since the document has already been published as a pdf, I’m loath to edit it more than is absolutely necessary to repair errors that interfere with the conveyance of the intended meaning. Normally I would do a more intensive edit, as is my natural inclination.

My guess is that the summary was originally composed in Spanish, and then hastily translated the same day the full-length Nisman report was released.

This report is important for the light it sheds into the Iranian network in Latin America, including the penetration of Trinidad and Tobago. We’ve covered parts of the Trinidad connection here in the past, beginning with Sheikh Yasin Abu Bakr back in 2006, and then his associate Abdul Kadir last year.

In addition to Argentina and Trinidad, other countries targeted by Iran include Guyana, Venezuela, Dominica, Barbados, Antigua, Barbuda, Suriname, Grenada, and Brazil.

The section below is the “Summary” portion of the FDD report. Further topical sections will be covered in later parts of this series.


Delving deeper into the investigation and the measures aimed towards the capture of the AMIA Case’s fugitives, it was detected, in July 2010, the existence of a criminal case before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn), in which several defendants were being prosecuted for conspiring to commit a terrorist attack against the John F. Kennedy airport. The information pointed out that one of them, Abdul Kadir, had repeated contacts with Mohsen Rabbani, principal architect of the local connection in the AMIA bombing with an international arrest warrant and red notice by Interpol.

This circumstance immediately motivated the Prosecution Investigation Unit of the AMIA case to contact the US judicial authorities in order to start an information exchange to obtain evidence linked to the person and activities of Mohsen Rabbani. Mainly, the deepening of this investigative line had the purpose to establish the knowledge Abdul Kadir and his acquaintances could have had about the terrorist bombing to the AMIA Center and Rabbani’s involvement in it, especially considering that, from the beginning of this new inquiry, it was known that the contacts between Rabbani and Kadir were contemporary to the July 18th blast.

Although initially it was examined the possibility of any kind of involvement of Abdul Kadir himself and his acquaintances in the AMIA bombing, that hypothesis had not been supported by any evidence collected until now, which therefore entitled this office to produce certain investigative measures, given the proven relations between Kadir and Rabbani.

Along this line, besides the testimonies taken by the Prosecutor’s Office under the Argentina-United States Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, this Unit also received copies of substantial documents seized by the Guyanese Law Enforcement Agencies in the searches conducted in Kadir’s residence as well as those obtained by the Trinidadian authorities when he was arrested. In those searches, as it was corroborated while taking testimony to the FBI agent Robert Addonizio, there were seized, among other important documents, letters addressed to Mohsen Rabbani, newspapers articles that mention At Tauhid mosque — formerly run by Mohsen Rabbani — and a Kadir’s personal phone book with Rabbani’s contact information handwritten in it.

From the beginning it is worth mention that the study of circumstances and the context in which this conspiracy took place, revealed common patterns between the activities performed by Kadir in Guyana and those developed by Rabbani in Argentina. It became evident that in the Caribbean nation had been settled by the same Iranian intelligence infiltration system as was in Argentina, consisting of many stages, interactive and complex links, for example: the arrival of Iranian Mullahs with a radicalized vision, propaganda and ideological infiltration according to that vision, recruiting and training of local Muslims and new converts, funding, dual use of mosques, cultural centers and Iranian diplomacy, etc. The characteristics identified in Guyana are similar to those that have already been detected in our country and were widely detailed and explained in the October 25th 2006 indictment. Despite the fact that Guyana and Argentina are two far distant and extremely different countries, the building and development of both Iranian intelligence stations showed remarkable resemblance, resulting in the need to deepen even more the investigation to further the study of the context in which AMIA bombing occurred.

This new evidence, jointly analyzed with the probing elements that were already part of this investigation, showed that this intelligence structures had a single and unique leadership, which allows to conclude that they had been preconceived; that means they were not the result of the free will of the local leaders — Rabbani and Kadir — who were the means that executed a previously shaped idea. The origins and unique features that characterized these structures allowed associating them inescapably with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

So, it is possible to state that the Iranian Intelligence structures discovered in Argentina as well as in Guyana — which were suitable to provide essential support for the deadly terrorist attack of 1994 and the dangerous conspiracy of 2007 — were not only very similar in their components, ways of implementation and purpose, but they were also conceived within the framework of the policy for exporting the revolution.

The Prosecution Unit was able to demonstrate that the seminar held in Teheran in 1982 on the subject of the ideal Islamic government, which was attended by approximately 380 religious men from 70 countries, was a turning point in the regime’s policy for exporting the revolution which included, since then, the use of violence and terrorism when necessary. In other words, that seminar meant for the Iranian leadership the birth of a justification for the use of violence as an admitted and even promoted way for removing the obstacles that could be found in spreading their radical vision. That was stated, among others, by the First Commander of Revolutionary Guard Corps, Javad Mansouri, who declared: “Our Revolution can only be exported by grenades and explosives”, and subsequently summoned each Iranian Embassy to turn into an intelligence center and a base to export the Revolution.

The prosecutor explained the background that made the seminar possible, noting that in October 1980 it was created the Organization of Islamic Liberation Movements (OILM) which started to operate as the real machinery for exporting the revolution. Its leader, Mehdi Hashemi, was appointed Commander of a special unit within the Revolutionary Guard Corps (Pasdaran) and from that position he started organizing a structure which contained warfare guerrilla units, initially including Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi dissidents who, at that time, were refuges in Iran. In a short period, the OILM reached a spectacular development becoming the leader in exporting the Islamic Revolution. Since the beginning of OILM’s activities, a department called “Studies and Investigations Unit” was exclusively devoted to analyzing foreign situations so as to export the Revolution.

After the 1982 seminar it became clear that, in order to achieve its expansionist objectives, the Iranian regime considered the possibility of using violence and terrorism if necessary. Those guidelines were put into practice by establishing intelligence and espionage structures in third countries with the sufficient capability to provide support for terrorist operations.

The expansionist ambitions of the regime became evident in one of the statements of the Iranian leader Ali Larijani, Minister of Culture during Rafsanjani’s government, former President of the Iranian Parliament, appointed negotiator by the Supreme Leader Khamenei to deal with western countries on the nuclear topic, member of the National Security Superior Council and one of the most well-known academics of the Islamic nation. He said: “Why do I think that we should not restrict ourselves to our territory? Because, in this world, we do not represent only an Islamic power but also we are in the Supreme Leader’s land — both in Imam Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei’s times. Until this responsibility is acknowledged by the Muslim world, this last one will be obliged to submit to her [Supreme Leader’s Land]. And until our land is that of the Supreme Leader of Islam, we will be responsible for the whole Muslim nation”.

Theory led to practice. A few months after the seminar, the Islamic Republic of Iran sent Mohsen Rabbani to settle in Argentina (whose activities ended up with his involvement in the AMIA bombing); accepted Abdul Kadir as its agent in Guyana (which turned out to be involved in the conspiracy to attack JFK airport); and sent Mohammad Tabatabaei Einaki to Brazil, from where he was expelled because of his involvement in political activities incompatible with the role he had declared to perform.

An specific example that the Iranian activities in South America dated back to those days, is a report sent to Iran by Rabbani from Argentina, which stated: “According to our Islamic point of view, Latin America is for us and the international world, a virgin area, that unfortunately, till now, its huge potential has not been taken into account by the Islamic people of Iran. […] we have a solid support against the imperialism and Zionism intrigues, being an important aid in favor of our presence in the area”.

It’s clear that since his arrival in Argentina, Rabbani was the spokesman of the hardest line inside the Iranian Regime. The economic capacity that he showed during his years in Argentina; the control and dual use of Shiite mosques in this country; the administration of communication media dedicated to Islamic culture; the authority over a group of loyalists to the project (“antennas”) and the support that he received from the Iranian diplomats in Argentina; were the pillars that, without any doubt, allowed this radical leader to build an intelligence structure according to the strategy conceived by the Islamic Republic of Iran and take advantage of its resources in case the instructions of the “export of the revolution” demanded extreme methods, as it occurred in our country. In that way, the Iranian expansionist program gained foothold in Argentina.

In this sense must be understood the Iranian infiltration in Guyana and other Caribbean countries, due to the labor of one of Rabbani’s disciple: Abdul Kadir, former Mayor of Linden and former national congressman. This intelligence agent, trained and supported by Iran, established in his country an intelligence structure, strikingly similar to the one built by Rabbani in Buenos Aires, which served the regime’s interests. His work constituted a fundamental support to another act of international terrorism: the conspiracy to attack JFK airport in New York, for which Kadir was convicted to life imprisonment.

In this indictment it was proven that Abdul Kadir had covered a similar route to the one treaded by Mohsen Rabbani in our country. It was established that in 1983, due to some initial contacts, Kadir managed to travel to the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the declared purpose of making himself available for the requirements of the Islamic revolution. According to the evidence, at his return from Iran, Kadir became the regime’s referent in his home country. Then a process of political and religious settlement began, in which the building of the necessary bases for exporting the Islamic Revolution was the essential objective. At this point, it is worth to mention the relationship he started with Morteza Tavasoli, back in those days Iranian ambassador in Venezuela and Kadir’s first regional contact, who assisted him in the propagation of the fundamentalist vision emanated from Iran.

Kadir was already working for Iran and, at that time, his relationship with the regime was conducted through the Iranian Ambassador in Venezuela. It is worth mentioning that Guyana did not have an Iranian diplomatic representation within its borders. Attached to the file there are intelligence reports that Kadir addressed to Tavasoli in which he explained political, economic and social developments of Guyana, he made references of the characteristics of the Guyanese Armed Forces as well as the security agencies and, basically, he detailed the correlating forces within the Guyanese and neighboring countries’ Muslim community.

Other evidence showed that since the ’90s there was a direct relationship between Rabbani and Kadir in which the second was subordinate. That dependency reflected the trust that Rabbani, as the Iranian regional leader for exporting the revolution in Latin America, had in Kadir, showing the real interest of Iran in improving the Islamic radicalized movement in this region.

So, this agent responsible of spreading extremism in Guyana and in neighboring countries, recruited individuals who shared the regime’s ideology and used the religious propagation to cover illegal activities, for example by preparing several intelligence reports and elaborating a “Five Year Development Plan”, in which he conceived the infiltration of Guyanese armed, police and special security forces, governmental agencies, the obtaining of multiple citizenships and forged documents, devising the indispensable ways and means to facilitate the establishment of an intelligent station with the characteristics promoted by Teheran.

Moreover, through the “Islamic Information Center of Guyana”, which he founded and directed, and from his position as representative of the Secretariat of the Islamic Caribbean Movement, he was able to spread his preaches from Guyana to other nations, such as Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Suriname and Grenada. This became evident in the statement of Steven Francis — confidential informant infiltrated in Kadir’s terrorist cell, who registered many conversations of the plotters — when he testified that Kadir and his acquaintances: “[…] were on the path to revolution; they were creating an organization; they were seeking to emulate Hezbollah. They wanted to form an organization like Hezbollah in the Caribbean, with its ideology. Kadir’s ideological level was very high, very convinced, he had studied a lot.[…] They wanted to extend throughout the continent. They could resort to violent methods if it were necessary to achieve their objective. Their ideology was violent, they were going to establish themselves by any means, even by force.

So, in the indictment is demonstrated the way in which the Islamic Republic of Iran, throughout the years, made significant improvement in the training and in the ideological, logistical and financial support provided to Kadir which allowed him to proceed, in the way he actually did, that is, becoming involved in a plot to carry out a terrorist attack of a huge and unpredictable magnitude.

In sum, the radical ideas inspired by the Iranian leaders ended up shaping a terrorist with ideal conditions to achieve their violent objectives and to carry out a terrorist attack like the one planned against the JFK airport which, as the US prosecutors stated, could have been similar or even worse than the 9/11 Twin Towers attack.

In this presentation it has also been explained how, early in 2007, Kadir was contacted to be part of the conspiracy to attack the JFK airport of New York City and that his contribution to draft the final plan was extremely valuable. As an example of this, it is worth mentioning his recommendations about the quantity and type of explosives that should be used in the attack (it must be noted that he was a civil engineer with a long career and experience in the mining industry) and his approval to use the bank account that he used to raise funds for building a mosque in Guyana, so as to hide the incoming money for the terrorist plot. This last example shows, once again, the way in which the Iranian agents operate by concealing illegal actions under religious activities, in this specific case connected to a terrorist plot.

In this petition, it has also been proved that the Iranian authorities not only had been informed of the plan to attack “John F. Kennedy” Airport, but they appear to be seriously involved in this operation, which entails a greater implication. A proof of this, among other evidence, is the statement of Steven Francis who declared that Abdul Kadir has explicitly referred that his contacts in Iran and in the Iranian Embassy of Venezuela said that they were already developing their own plan to attack New York’s Airport, but — eventually — it was decided to pursue Russell Defreitas’ plan. Concretely, he said that “there were people already looking into this activity and to the attack of JFK….there were people looking already into this matter but it was not to the extent of the knowledge displayed by Sheik Muhammed”, that is, Defreitas. It is clear enough to say that Russell Defreita’s plan was considered a better plan compared to the one already seen by Iran, which also would explain Kadir’s sudden departure to Iran to finalize details of the attack.

Regarding Kadir, he was arrested precisely while being on his way to the Islamic Republic of Iran, where he was going to finalize details of their criminal plan. That is the reason why Salim, one of Kadir’s sons, had communicated with his contacts in Iran to obtain assistance for his arrested father.

Iran’s involvement was necessary because its revolutionary leadership was going to provide the financial support and the fatwa, that is, the religious order that authorized the attack. Francis explains in his testimony, the plotters’ need to obtain the ruling from a religious leader who must order the execution of the terrorist act.

This need explains why the plotters had decided to send a trusted person to Iran in order to meet with the leaders of the Iranian revolutionary movement and, thus, further the terrorist plan. In the trial of another plotter, Kareem Ibrahiim, US Attorney’s Office-Eastern District of New York pointed out that the conspirators had agreed to “contact the person with the highest rank inside Iran’s revolutionary movement”. In addition, the person sent to Iran would travel pretending to be in a pilgrimage to Mecca; this is to say, it was agreed that in order to send an envoy to Iran to further the terrorist plan, it was convenient to include that person in the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages, as a way to avoid scrutiny or suspicions from international security agencies or authorities. This is the reason why the group created the code “Hajj or Umrah travel”. Those facts were confirmed by Kareem Ibrahiim himself who, in his testimony before court, stated that when they made references about sending Salim to Umrah, actually it was a code they created to refer to his journey to Iran in order to further their terrorist plan. Moreover, in the conversations registered by the F.B.I. there are references about the idea to hide the trip to Iran under the pretense of a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Finally, it must be stated that from Defreitas’ point of view, Kadir was very important to the plot, not only because he was a successful leader, but also due to his deeply rooted connections with Iran and its embassy in Venezuela. This assessment was accurate because, as it has been analyzed by the Prosecutor, the introduction of Kadir to the plot not only meant the inclusion of a man, but also of a complete logistic, operative and economic structure controlled by Iran, with the specific capacity to facilitate and successfully execute a terrorist attack.

Therefore, the dual use of cultural and religious activities was present in the conspiracy to attack the JFK airport. As an example of this, it can be mentioned the pretense of a pilgrimage to Mecca to cover the real intention to travel to Iran to pitch the terrorist plot; secondly, the use of a bank account opened to collect funds for the building of a mosque in order to conceal the financing of a terrorist act. A third example, is revealed by the decision to use the funds collected for charity by voluntary donations of Muslims, with the purpose of financing the passport expenses of the person sent to Iran to pitch the terrorist plot. Moreover, Kadir had developed a “five year plan” which included both the need to create programs of madrassas as well as the infiltration of security forces and document forgery. Finally, it must be mentioned that the conspirators in the attack on the JFK airport used the mosque of Guyana as suitable place for exchanging information related to the plan.

The detailed analysis of Kadir’s activities in Guyana and in the Caribbean under Iranian directions showed the way in which the Islamic Republic of Iran had spread its strategy of cultural, religious and ideological infiltration in our region. It is not a coincidence that in two countries with utterly dissimilar idiosyncrasies, such as Argentina and Guyana, the routes covered by both Iranian agents (Rabbani and Kadir) had been almost identical. Thus, there is a correspondence in the beginning of their activities, the financing and indoctrination provided by the Iranian regime, the indivisible fusion between politics and religion, an intense activity aimed to recruit and train supporters of their fundamentalist vision, the preparation and submission of intelligence reports and the dual use of mosques, cultural centers and embassies in order to establish an intelligence station, avoiding arousing suspicion within local law enforcement authorities.

Such coincidences can only be explained due to their common origin, that is, the policy of exporting the revolution that, under a religious and cultural cover, foresees the infiltration of third countries. Since the 1982 seminary, this infiltration was materialized in an intelligence structure that, under the cover of cultural and religious promotion and diplomatic and/or commercial activities, would be able to provide operative and logistical support to terrorist actions, if necessary. That is what precisely happened in Argentina in 1994 and in Guyana in 2007.

Hat tip: Fausta.

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