Magazine article Insight on the News

New Evidence Fuels Iran Terror Debate; as New Light Is Shed on Iran's Official Involvement in Terrorism, Policy Infighting Has Intensified between the White House, Pentagon and State Department

Magazine article Insight on the News

New Evidence Fuels Iran Terror Debate; as New Light Is Shed on Iran's Official Involvement in Terrorism, Policy Infighting Has Intensified between the White House, Pentagon and State Department

Article excerpt

Byline: Kenneth R. Timmerman, INSIGHT

Hard new information on the involvement of the Iranian government in terrorism, coupled with mounting concern that Iran is much closer to developing nuclear weapons than previously thought, has brought the White House to a policy Rubicon, administration officials and think-tank analysts tell Insight. President George W. Bush recognizes that he must craft a tougher approach toward a regime he identified 18 months ago as a member of the Axis of Evil, White House officials say. And yet his top advisers continue to be split between two conflicting and mutually exclusive approaches.

"As of now, there is no Iran policy," American Enterprise Institute scholar Richard Perle tells Insight. Until recently Perle was chairman of the Defense Policy Board, and he remains close to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "It is well known within the administration that Iran is the single most active source of terrorism and is the biggest financier of terrorism. And yet, no clear strategy has been developed to deal with Iran," Perle says.

Several interagency meetings scheduled to determine a new U.S. policy toward Iran have been canceled in recent weeks as the debate intensified within the administration. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage even has called the Islamic Republic of Iran "a democracy," and the State Department continues to counsel a careful dialogue with the Tehran regime. The Pentagon and the White House, however, believe instead that the United States should devise ways of destabilizing and ultimately assisting the overthrow of the regime in favor of a secular and (hopefully) pro-Western government. They argue that anything less would "undermine" the president's war on terror.

New details of the involvement of the Iranian government in a murderous suicide bombing of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AIMA) community center during July 1994 in Buenos Aires, just released by an Argentine judge, could help tip the balance in favor of the Pentagon and those White House officials who favor regime change in Iran.

The nine-year investigation by Judge Juan Jose Galeano led in March to international arrest warrants being issued for four Iranian government officials, as well as for notorious Lebanese terrorist Imad Mugniyeh. After alerting Interpol, which issued "red notices" on the five men, the judge formally requested that the Iranian government arrest them and make them available for trial. "The Iranian government has told us angrily that they will not comply and that the judge is stupid," sources close to Galeano tell Insight from Buenos Aires.

In addition to Mugniyeh, who works for Iran's Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS) and lives in Iran with an Iranian wife, those indicted are Mohsen Rabbani, a cultural attache at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires, diplomat Barat Ali Balesh-Abadi and Ali Akbar Parvaresh, a former education minister identified in the indictment as "one of the founding members of the Pasdaran [Revolutionary Guards] and one of the ideologues of the Ministry of Information."

The fifth man facing arrest is Ali Fallahian, the former MOIS minister. "In asking for Fallahian," sources close to Galeano tell Insight, "we were showing that the whole Iranian government was behind the attack. Fallahian was just the point man for the Iranian government."

A previously classified report from the Argentinian intelligence service SIDE, quoted throughout the 400-page indictment, which this magazine obtained from sources in Buenos Aires, names more than two dozen participants in the actual attack who were recruited by Mugniyeh and Rabbani from Hezbollah operatives and from among the Iranian community in Argentina. The indictment also notes the unusually high number of visits to Buenos Aires by Iranian government officials coming from Germany, Iran, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil in the month before the attack. …

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