The brouhaha over an alleged 1994 Iranian plot to bomb a Jewish community center in Argentina, of all places, has been in and out of the news for years. Hysterical headlines, fantastic allegations, simmering intrigue, a mysterious suicide that some are claiming was a murder – it all sounds like a fourth-rate made-for-television thriller. That may be because its source – the weird neo-Marxist cult known as the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), which seems to have bought half the Congress and any number of well-known political figures and pundits – is prone to melodrama of the crudest sort.
An Iranian exile group headed up by a woman who calls herself the “President” of Iran, the MEK has an extensive international network, with its fanatic members running a bewildering array of front groups – the Iranian American Community of North Texas, the National Council of Resistance, Iran Zamin Cultural Association, the Organizing Committee for Convention for Democracy in Iran, the Human Rights Center in Wisconsin, Association of Iranian Women in America, to name a few. These groups ceaselessly lobby for two main causes: 1) Getting the group delisted as a terrorist organization, and 2) Moving the West to attack Iran.
They succeeded in their first goal, at least here in the US, with Hillary Clinton’s decision to take the MEK off the list of terror groups after a very well-financed and persistent campaign. MEK was listed in the first place because they had launched attacks on US assets and personnel in the late 1970s, murdering six Americans. MEK supported the Iranian revolution that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini to power, only breaking with the regime when Tehran decided to release the US embassy hostages – and after being decisively defeated in subsequent elections.
MEK launched terrorist attacks on the Islamist regime, killing scores of civilians in bombings, and establishing a base in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, whose regime sheltered and supported them. They played a key role in suppressing revolts against Saddam’s rule, brutally suppressing a Shi’ite rising in the south and a Kurdish rebellion that resulted in the death of thousands.
After Saddam’s fall, they began their rebirth into a “pro-democracy” exile group, reportedly with aid from the Israelis. When a number of neoconservative organizations in the US took up their cause, MEK became the Iranian analogue of the Iraqi National Congress, the group headed up by international intriguer Ahmed Chalabi who provided the Bush administration – and New York Times reporter Judith Miller – with much of the erroneous “intelligence” that led the US to invade Iraq.
Over the years, MEK has carried out a persistent campaign to foment a similar US invasion of Iran, their mainstay being various attempts to document Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. Virtually all of these attempts have been debunked as either outright forgeries or else half-truths based on outdated and dubiously sourced information. Their only success has been the revelation of the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz, and even there they didn’t garner the intelligence on their own: it was reportedly given to them by the Israelis.
Now they have tried a different tack: accusing Tehran of sponsoring an international terrorist conspiracy, one tentacle of which is the alleged 1994 plot to bomb a Jewish community center in Argentina. And their neoconservative cheerleaders have taken up the cry, with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Israel Project, and the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, all promoting MEK’s indictment.
That indictment was summarized and published by Argentina’s chief prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, who relied exclusively on MEK “experts” to justify his charges against top Iranian officials supposedly involved in the attack on the Jewish center. The head of the National Council of Resistance “intelligence” division, Reza Zakeri Kouchaksaraee, testified that a 1993 two-hour meeting resulted in a decision to bomb the center: he gave the meeting date as August 14. Another National Council of Resistance official, Hadi Roshanravani, gives the date as August 12.
How did MEK know about this alleged meeting, and even the precise agenda, when none of these “experts” were in Iran at the time, nor did they work for or have any contact with the Iranian government when the alleged plot was hatched? Nisman does not say in his report: he only cites MEK-affiliated “defectors” who defected well before the bombing took place. MEK has long traded on its supposed secret connections to mysterious sources inside Iran, but this claim has worn rather thin over the years as their “revelations” turn out to be utter junk. Nisman, however, swallowed them whole in this case, citing no evidence for his charges other than MEK’s bare assertions.
Nisman cites yet another Iranian defector, Aboghasem Mesbahi, who repeats MEK’s claims. Mesbahi’s credibility may be measured by his statements to the 9/11 Commission averring that Iran was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon: he knew this because he read secret messages in newspapers.
So what’s really behind the international campaign trying to link Iran to the bombing, which killed 85 people and injured 300?
The evidence points to hedge fund chief Paul Singer, one of the richest men in the world, whose financial interests and devotion to Israel combine to produce what can only be characterized as a singular obsession.
In 2001, Argentina defaulted on its debt payments, the inevitable result of years of big government programs, incompetence, and outright corruption. But that didn’t deter Singer from buying up Argentina’s bonds on the cheap. His plan: to pursue Argentina in court and demand full payment. A court victory – which he achieved in the summer of last year, when the Supreme Court ruled in Singer’s favor – would reward him with over $2 billion in pure profit. The “vulture,” as financial publications like Forbes describe Singer and other investors who buy up bonds of desperately poor countries in hopes of making a killing, is now free to seize Argentine’s assets around the world. Argentina is also forbidden to settle with other bondholders who may be willing to accept partial payment until Singer and his fellow vultures are paid in full.
Singer helped found the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), which has been running newspaper ads in support of Singer’s legal efforts as well as demonizing Argentina as part of a vast Iranian terrorist network operating throughout South America. Singer gave half a million dollars to The Israel Project, which has been frenetically promoting this conspiracy theory. FDD, which has signed on to the anti-Argentina campaign in a big way, received over $3 million from Singer. A whole panoply of Republican members of Congress in the forefront of the anti-Argentina jihad – including presidential candidate Marco Rubio,who introduced a resolution in the Senate demanding an investigation into Argentina’s alleged ties to Iran — have been beneficiaries of Singer’s largesse. AIPAC, which has been more circumspect in is promotion of the Jewish center bombing “connection” to Iran, has been similarly rewarded: its fundraising arm was given over $1 million by Singer and his associates.
A $2 billion payoff – and the smiting of Israel’s principal enemy: that’s the double-barreled motive behind Singer’s anti-Argentina holy war.
Ideology and moolah have always coincided in the world of the neoconservatives: remember Richard Perle’s Trireme Partners, a “security” firm set up to profit off the Iraq war? And of course, as Rand Paul pointed out, Dick Cheney’s connection to Halliburton – and the windfall profits they made off the invasion of Iraq – are emblematic of the neocons’ ability to make mucho dineros off their penchant for conquest. The links of key neoconservative activists with big military contractors like Lockheed-Martin are a matter of longstanding public record.
Not that these people aren’t sincere in their belief that war is indeed the answer: they just aren’t averse to making a few billion in profit along the way.
When prosecutor Nisman committed suicide a day before he was supposed to formally present his charges of a “cover up” by Argentina of Iran’s alleged culpability in the bombing plot, the hysterics in neoconservative circles reached fever pitch. The same people who denounce any arguments that they are trying to push us into war as a kooky “conspiracy theory” were quick to evoke a conspiracy by the Argentine government to commit murder. Yet Nisman’s death was clearly self-inflicted: a gun he had borrowed from an associate was found next to his body, and there were no signs of a struggle or forced entry. No evidence has emerged to show that he was killed by something other than his own hand: but evidence, or the lack of it, has never stopped the neocons from constructing elaborate arguments touting their own “theories.”
And they have no lack of means to publicize these theories: the campaign to tar Iran with the “terrorist” brush is fueled by the multi-millions of billionaires like Singer, Sheldon Adelson, and Norman Braman, whose insistence on 100 percent loyalty to Israel in the candidates and causes they support is remaking the political discourse in the US when it comes to foreign policy.
The forces driving us to war with Iran have billions of dollars to spend. They represent a minority of the population – but that doesn’t deter them. Their strategy is to present both sides of the same coin to the American people, come election time, and then ask them to make a “choice” – a Republican who will take us to war against Iran, or a Democrat who will take the same road.
So what can stop them? If the deck is stacked, how can we prevent the next war in the Middle East – which promises to make the Iraq war look like a mere skirmish?
The answer is a mass mobilization by the American people against the drive to war – and, no, that’s not a pipedream. We did it when President Obama decided he wanted to bomb Syria and then gave Congress the last word. Congressional switchboards were soon inundated with calls opposing a new war one-hundred-to-one. Members of Congress who said they would vote yes for war backed down, and those on the fence came over to our side – until it was clear the administration wouldn’t have the votes. Obama backed off in the face of massive opposition: and, yes, Antiwar.com was a big part of that memorable mobilization.
We did it before – and we can and will do it again.
You can see, from the above, how outgunned we are when it comes to financial resources. The War Party has billions, and money is no object. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: they need those billions, and more, because they represent nothing and no one but themselves. Their support is almost exclusively in Washington, D.C., and New York City, the political and media centers that profit from perpetual war. We, on the other hand, have the overwhelming majority of the American people on our side – if only we can rally them to the banner of peace in time.
Paul Singer’s billions are feeding America a diet of lies. Our answer to him and his confreres is the unalloyed truth – and we don’t need billions, or even millions, to educate the American people about the forces pushing us into war. We just need a basic minimum to keep this web site going.
We’ve been fighting the War Party’s lies since 1995, with the invaluable help of our readers and supporters – and we’ve been doing it on a shoestring budget! What we spend in an entire year is what groups like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the American Enterprise Institute spend in less than a week.
We need your help to counter the well-financed lies that are poisoning the national discourse around foreign policy issues. Your tax-deductible donation goes to counter the Paul Singers, the Sheldon Adelsons, and their friends in what Dwight Eisenhower called “the military-industrial-congressional” complex – and every penny counts.
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NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.