By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPOST CORRESPONDENT IN WASHINGTON
The Argentinean prosecutor who ferreted out Iranian links to Argentina's largest terror attack warned Wednesday of Teheran's growing terror network in Latin America.
"The Iranians are moving fast," assessed Alberto Nisman, who has secured Interpol backing for the arrest of several Iranians, including former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, for ordering the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community offices in Buenos Aires. "We see a much greater penetration than we did in 1994."
He said that Iran, particularly through Lebanese proxy Hizbullah, has a growing presence in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, using techniques it honed in Argentina before the country took measures to counter Teheran following the AMIA bombing.
He described sham operations involving taxi drivers, who conducted surveillance without arousing suspicion; fake medical school students, who could stay in the country for many years without raising eyebrows; and business fronts that helped funnel cash to operatives.
Meanwhile, the Iranians cultivated ties at the local mosques to search for people who could be radicalized.
Now, he said, Argentina is considered a "hostile environment" for Iran, but the Iranian terrorist groups are finding fertile ground in other countries.
"The stronger element that happens today is the complicity of the government," said Nisman, pointing to the networks Iran develops through its embassies. "We know that Chavez allows Hizbullah to come in."
Nisman, who spoke through a Spanish interpreter at a Foundation for Defense of Democracies event Wednesday, said he regularly shared the information he has gathered on Iranian and Hizbullah activities with other countries in an effort to get them to act.
He described responses of "surprise" at how clear the evidence against Iran is in the AMIA case as well as "interest" in the case and the issue of the terror ties.
But, he stressed, "Much more can be done and hopefully will be done before it's too late."
Referring to countries who have not done all they could, particularly in bringing the Iranian perpetrators of the AMIA attack to justice, he continued, "There are too many countries in Europe that continue to turn a blind eye â€¦ like [they did] with the Nazis."
Nisman called on these countries to refuse to welcome Iranian leaders to international forums like the United Nations until they adhere to the Interpol-backed warrants and hand over the men wanted by Argentina.
"Iran will not long be able to resist," he contended. "It can't fight against the entire world."
Still, Nisman said he is contemplating additional avenues for bringing the suspects to trial, and the Argentinean courts have already taken some civil actions, with $1.5 million in assets turned over to victims and $633 million attached pending resolution of the case.
He has already succeeded in indicting a former Argentinean president and judge involved in the AMIA case for hindering the investigation and being involved in corruption.
He credited US and Israeli intelligence officers in helping him find the right trails to follow over the course of his three-year investigation, begun a decade after the attack and substantially concluded in 2007.
Both are due to stand trial soon, according to Nisman.
Nisman maintained that he has not given up hope that he will send these top Iranian figures to jail, pointing to the unexpected internal fissures resulting from June's flawed presidential elections as a sign of the potential for change.
"The Iranian revolution has been going for 30 years. It's going to end someday," he said.
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