What Alberto Nisman Found

Jan. 22 2015

The Argentinian special prosecutor Alberto Nisman, found dead in his apartment earlier this week, had uncovered much about Iran’s extensive terror network in South America over the course of his decade-long investigation. Claudia Rosett recounts some of his findings, and examines what they might mean for the U.S.:

[Nisman] said his investigation had uncovered evidence that back in the 1980s, shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, Tehran’s regime had targeted Argentina as its main point of entry into Latin America. He said there were two big attractions for the Iranian regime: “Anti-Semitism is part of the culture,” and Argentina in those days was willing to provide Iran with some nuclear technology. It was when Argentina, under pressure from the U.S., became less forthcoming on nuclear matters that Iran turned to terrorist attack.

He said that though many Iranians were sent as secret agents, they were assigned to particular ways of life, to settle in. . . .

Nisman also warned that when Iran’s regime is planning operations in a country, it uses the Iranian embassy as a spy center. That may sound unsurprising. But with Iran fielding a large diplomatic mission to the United Nations in New York, as well as a large Iranian interests section inside the Pakistan embassy in Washington, Nisman’s observation deserves wide attention in the U.S.

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More about: AMIA bombing, Anti-Semitism, Argentina, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Terrorism

Russia Has No Interest in Curbing Iran in Syria—Despite Putin’s Assurances

July 20 2018

In his joint press conference on Monday with Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump stated that in their meeting he had brought up U.S. concerns about the Islamic Republic’s malign influence in the Middle East, and that he’d “made clear [to Putin] that the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from [America’s] successful campaign against Islamic State.” It does not appear, however, that any concrete agreements were reached. To Alexandra Gutowski and Caleb Weiss, it’s clear that agreements will do little, since Putin can’t be trusted to keep his word:

In late June, Russia began to unleash hundreds of airstrikes on [the southwestern Syrian province of] Deraa, in flagrant violation of the U.S.-Russian cease-fire agreement that Trump and Putin personally endorsed last November. While Russia struck from the air, forces nominally under the control of Damascus conducted a major ground offensive.

Closer examination shows that the dividing line between Assad’s military and Iranian-aligned forces has become ever blurrier. Before the offensive began, Lebanese Hizballah and other Iranian-backed militias staged apparent withdrawals from the region, only to return after donning [Assad]-regime uniforms and hiding their banners and insignia. Tehran is also directly involved. On July 2, a senior commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) died in Deir al-Adas, a village in northern Deraa province along the strategic M5 highway. Persian sources describe him as the commander for the province. [In fact], forces nominally under the control of Damascus are permeated with troops that are at least as close to Tehran. . . .

It’s also becoming clear that Russian aircraft are supporting the efforts of Iranian-backed units nominally under the control of Damascus. . . . Russia has also now deployed military police to hold terrain captured by Iranian-aligned forces, demonstrating a level of coordination as well as Russia’s unwillingness to use its forces for more dangerous offensive operations. These terrain-holding forces free up Iran-aligned actors to continue undertaking offensives toward the Golan.

Reported meetings between militia commanders and Russian officers suggest these operations are coordinated. But even without formal coordination, Russian air cover and Iranian ground offensives are mutually dependent and reinforcing. Iran can’t be in the sky, and Russia refuses to put significant forces on the ground, lest too many return home in body bags. Thus, Putin requires Iran’s forces on the ground to secure his ambitions in Syria.

President Trump should remain highly skeptical of Putin’s interest in serving as a partner in Syria and his ability to do so. The humanitarian relief Putin proposes [for postwar reconstruction] is designed to fortify the regime, not to rehabilitate children brutalized by Assad. Putin also has limited interest in curtailing Iran’s deployment. Russia itself admits that Iran’s withdrawal is “absolutely unrealistic.” Trump should not concede American positions, notably the strategic base at Tanf which blocks Iran’s path to the Mediterranean, for empty promises from Russia. Putin can afford to lie to America, but he can’t afford to control Syria without Iranian support.

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More about: Donald Trump, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin