The timing and coincidence of the mysterious death of Dr. Alberto Nisman couldn’t be more remarkable.
He was found dead with one bullet in his head in his apartment in the capital just hours after an Israeli helicopter fired missiles that killed six Hezbollah commanders and six Iranian officers on the Syrian side of the Golan. Among them was an Iranian general and Jihad Mughniyeh, son of Imad, Hezbollah’s “defense minister,” whom Israel assassinated in 2008. Iranian and Hezbollah media hinted that their killing would be avenged.
His death also was just hours before he was to testify before a committee of Argentina’s parliament regarding his accusations that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman were leading the cover-up to blur the Iranian role in the 1994 terrorist attack.
“The president and her foreign minister took the criminal decision to fabricate Iran’s innocence to sate Argentina’s commercial, political and geopolitical interests,” he said recently.
Nisman was the Argentine public prosecutor who showed integrity, courage and determination in conducting the investigation into the 1994 AMIA attack – the association of the Jewish communities in the country. In that attack, the worst terrorist incident in Argentina’s history, 85 people were killed.
That incident was preceded two years earlier by the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, which claimed 29 lives, seven of them Israelis.
Both attacks were a joint operation carried out by Hezbollah and Iran’s intelligence apparatus to avenge the assassinations by Israeli helicopters in 1992 of Abbas Musawi, then Hezbollah secretary. Musawi was replaced by Hassan Nasrallah, who has since proven himself a more cunning, daring, sophisticated, tough and vicious enemy of Israel.
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In retrospect, Israeli security and intelligence officials, including some of those involved in the operation, admitted that it was a mistake to kill Musawi. The question now is will Israel regret the killing of Mughniyeh junior and the Iranian general in the future? The first inquiry was led by the Argentine federal judge Juan Jose Galiano. In 1999, an arrest warrant was issued against Imad Mughniyeh in connection with the attack and Galiano later issued warrants for the arrests of 12 Iranians, including Hade Soleimanpour, Iran’s Ambassador to Argentina at the time of the attack.
Soleimanpour was arrested in 2003 in London but subsequently was released, according to the British Home Office, due to a lack of evidence. A year later, all the Argentine suspects were cleared by a local court.
Galiano’s investigation was considered sluggish.
In 2005, he was impeached and removed from the investigation due to irregularities and mishandling of the case. It turned out that Galiano had paid some $400,000 to a key witness to incriminate former policemen, while diverting blame from Iran and Hezbollah. Galiano was trying to shield then-president Carlos Menem.
Menem was replaced by Nestor Kirchner (husband of the current president), who called his country’s behavior a “national disgrace.”
Enter Nisman, who replaced Galiano and, with vigorous and painstaking patience, reconstructed the evidence to prove that Iran and Hezbollah were behind the attacks.
Nisman was supported by the US and Israeli intelligence communities, which provided him with some incriminating intercepted conversations and additional materials. As a result of his investigation, Argentina issued arrest warrants against Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former intelligence minister Ali Fallahian and other officials – all accused of plotting, planning or confirming the attack on AMIA. A special Interpol conference approved the warrants.
In 2007, during his visit to Israel, I interviewed Nisman. He told me: “I have no doubt that the most senior Iranian leadership, with the help of Hezbollah, is responsible for the attacks in Buenos Aires and against the Israeli Embassy.
He also revealed that “the Iranians had tried to bribe many countries, mostly from Africa, to vote against the Interpol decision.”
Though knowing that Iran will never extradite the wanted men, he kept pursuing the case, insisting that his country should not sacrifice the memory of the victims to commercial interests and exonerate Iran and its leaders as Kirchner and Timerman intended.
Two days before his death Nisman told his confidants he feared for his life and Monday’s events left significant questions unanswered.
The principal one being: Did Nisman really commit suicide or was he murdered and, if so as many believe, on whose orders – Kirchner, Khamenei or both?
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