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Confession of an Iranian Terror Czar
Dr. De Braeckeleer details the complex case of Brigadier General Ahmad Beladi Behbahani
Ludwig De Braeckeleer (ludwig)     Print Article 
Published 2008-01-11 13:24 (KST)   
This article has only been lightly edited. The views expressed within are exclusively the author's.  <Editor's Note>
"In fact, the public has the right not only to justice but to protection. For if, as a consequence of incompetence or cynical realpolitik, the true culprits are not tracked down and prosecuted, they and their government sponsors are free to orchestrate further murderous outrages. And experience shows that this is precisely what they do." -- David Horovitz, The Jerusalem Post, October 11 2007

On May 24 2000, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCR) issued a press release claiming that Brigadier General Ahmad Beladi Behbahani had defected to Turkey. The NCR called upon the government of Turkey to put him under immediate arrest.

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According to the NCR press release, Behbahani had been "President Rafsanjani's liaison with the Intelligence Ministry." The NCR alleged that Behbahani had first hand information about Tehran sponsored terrorism dating as far back as 1986.

Several Western observers grasped at once the importance of the defection. "If this man is Behbahani, then obviously he was a crucial figure in the intelligence set-up in Iran and his information would be extremely important," said Lord Avebury who had co-authored a 1996 report on Behbahani.

A NCR spokesperson stated that Behbahani knew the truth about the Lockerbie bombing. On December 21 1988, a bomb blew up Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, causing the deaths of all 259 passengers and another 11 Scottish villagers on the ground.

The bombing was blamed on two Libyans; Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer and the head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, the LAA station manager in Luqa Airport, Malta. On January 31 2001, Fhimah was acquitted. Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison.

Back in 2000, the NCR enjoyed little visibility in the U.S. and American media paid virtually no attention to these extraordinary allegations. Two years later, the NCR gained much credibility as the organization exposed two Iran secret nuclear facilities located at Natanz and Istaphan.

Only one America television news program decided to follow the NCR story. "60 Minutes" sent a team to eastern Turkey. CBS reporter Leslie Stahl was accompanied by Robert Baer, a former CIA officer, and Iranian-born associate CBS producer Roya Hakakian.

"If his story can be confirmed, and American intelligence is trying to do that right now, it would not only disrupt the trial of the two Libyans charged with that bombing, it could interfere with the Clinton administration's efforts at relaxing and improving relations with Iran," warned CBS on June 4, 2000.

Baer had prepared "control questions", that is questions that he felt an imposter would not be able to answer correctly.

Turkish officials categorically refused to allow the CBS team to enter the guarded camp for Iranian refugees. Nevertheless, Hakakian, who had traveled with the team to serve as translator, managed to get inside the camp surreptitiously.

Moreover, Hakakian was able to speak to Behbahani. Their long conversation convinced her that he was a genuine defector. "I traced the tone of someone who was extremely bitter, and was willing to go to any lengths in order to get revenge. He had fallen out of favor with the Iranian officials, with the government of Iran, and he just wanted to get back at them, at any cost."

What is more, the asylum seeker answered correctly the controlled questions prepared by the former CIA operative. "I am satisfied with the answers," Baer said.

"He's the only person that has tied Libya and Iran into Pan Am 103, into the Lockerbie bombing. This is the first authoritative source that I've ever heard that connected the two countries together. It was always a mystery," stated Baer, who worked on the initial phase of the CIA's Lockerbie inquiry.

Not Quite the First...

As a matter of fact, another Iranian defector had already alleged that Iran had commission the bombing to Palestinian terrorists and Lebanese citizens. Few Americans know this as the news was never reported in the U.S..

In July 1997, German prosecutors interviewed Abolghasem Mesbahi, also known as witness "C", in a case concerning the assassination of Iranian dissidents in Berlin. Abolghasem Mesbahi is actually an alias used by a former high ranking Iranian intelligence agent, believed to be the son of one of the fathers of the Islamic Revolution.

German Law Authorities came to regard Mesbahi as a credible witness. In fact, based on his testimony, an Iranian and four Lebanese were convicted of killing several Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Germany.

Besides linking Iran to the killing of dissidents in Berlin, Mesbahi claimed that Iran was behind the 1988 bombing of Pan Am airliner 103. Tehran promptly dismissed his testimony as part of an anti-Iran campaign by German media.

"I can say that a witness has been interviewed and that his testimony blames Iran," Job Tilmann, a spokesman for the Frankfurt prosecutors' office.

Mesbahi told investigators that Iran had asked Libya and Abu Nidal, a Palestinian guerrilla leader, to carry out the attack on the Boeing 747 jet.

According to Mesbahi, Iran planned the attack as revenge after the U.S. cruiser Vincennes shot down an Iran Air Airbus over the Strait of Hormuz earlier in 1988.

Mesbahi alleged that parts of the bomb were put on a plane at Frankfurt airport, later assembled in London and finally loaded onto Pan Am 103.

Mesbahi said that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini personally ordered the revenge attack and that Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati had carried out the planning with Libya and guerrilla leader Abu Nidal.

Mesbahi revelations prompted Tam Dalyell, Labour member of the House of Commons from 1962 to 2005, to ask Henry McLeish, the Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office, some embarrassing questions.

During his rather astonishingly long career in the House, Dalyell led no less than 17 Adjournment debates on the Lockerbie bombing, in which he repeatedly demanded answers by the government to the reports of Hans Kochler, the United Nations observer at the Lockerbie Trial.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): What action the Crown Office has taken on the depositions and statements made by the Iranian defector, Mr. Abolghasem Mesbahi, to Mr. Gunter Rath, state prosecutor at Frankfurt, in relation to the Lockerbie bombing; and what discussions Her Majesty's Government have had with the Governments of the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany on the matter.

Mr. Henry McLeish: It would be inappropriate for the prosecuting or investigation authorities to give details of investigative steps that have been taken. I can assure my hon. Friend that appropriate action has been taken in co-operation with our German and American colleagues to investigate the allegations made by Abolghasem Mesbahi.

Mr. Dalyell: Can the Minister at least tell the House whether Mesbahi has been interrogated by the police in charge of the criminal investigation? If he has not, why not?

Mr. McLeish: With his usual courtesy, my hon. Friend has given me a copy of the letter concerning this question that he received recently from the Lord Advocate. I am afraid that I am unable to take the matter further other than to confirm to my hon. Friend that statements given by Mesbahi have been discussed with the German and American prosecuting and investigating authorities, as would be the case with any other significant matter. In the circumstances, I will be happy to pass on again to the Lord Advocate the comments of my hon. Friend.

To my knowledge, a decade later, Dalyell is still waiting for answers to these questions and to many others he has raised over the years.

Immediate Denial from U.S. and Iranian Intelligence

The CIA immediately stated that it had never heard of Behbahani. The CBS program said the CIA in Washington, D.C., denied knowledge of Behbahani.

The Iranian government first said the defector was not General Ahmad Behbahani. Then, the Iranian government said it had never employed a man named Ahmad Behbahani.

Finally, on June 8, the Intelligence Ministry identified the defector as Shahram Beladi Behbahani, born in 1968. The ministry said he was an escaped convict, imprisoned for armed robbery in 1991.

According to the Intelligence Ministry, Shahram Beladi Behbahani had worked with the Iranian opposition Mujahedeen Khalq until 1998. The Mujahedeen Khalq immediately denied that Behbahani had ever been one of their members.

Iran suggested that Behbahani had fabricated these accusations to gain asylum. "Those Iranians, who wish to be granted asylum in Western countries, are usually trying to achieve their aims through libelous statements against the Islamic Republic of Iran," Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said.

"I thought they would be very careful in the phraseology of the denial. In fact he worked in Rafsanjani's office and not in the Ministry of Intelligence, so what they are saying is not technically a lie," Lord Avebury argued.

Meanwhile the NCR and People's Mojahedin office in Washington revealed that Mehdi Beladi-Behbahani, alias Shahram, was the younger brother of General Behbahani.

In February 1992, Shahram had tried to carry out a strike against a base of the People's Mojahedin of Iran located in Iraq. He got caught, was interrogated and provided much information about his older brother. Shahram was then passed to the Turkish Authorities who returned him to Iran in 1998.

Prudent Statements From U.S. State Department

Hours before the CBS broadcast, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said on CNN's "Late Edition" that the report was interesting and her department would monitor the program.

"But you have to remember that the Pan Am 103 trial is going on now. I think it is inappropriate to comment on the specifics of it," Albright said.

"That trial is in the process ... and it's been in preparation a long time. I'm sure they will consider all the facts." To my knowledge, and contrary to Albright assurance, the world never heard again of Behbahani and Mesbahi.

And Of Course, Denial From the PFLP-GC

Speaking on behalf of the PFLP-GC, Ahmed Jibril stated that Behbahani's claims were fabricated: "This charge against the PFLP-GC is not new. Whenever they need to pressure the Palestinian opposition, they revive this claim," declared Jibril.

According to an investigative journalist, the Bush administration knew the role of the PFLP-GC in the bombing of Pan Am 103. In mid 1989, Secretary of State James Baker visited with Syrian Foreign Intelligence Minister Farouk al-Sharaa.

Baker asked:

"What are you doing about the ... group?"
"What are you talking about," asked al-Sharaa.
"Jibril," answered Baker. "We know they are responsible for Lockerbie. What are you doing about them?"
"How do you know that?"
"We have the evidence," Baker replied. "And the evidence is irrefutable."

To my knowledge, U.S. officials have never denied the accuracy of this brief exchange. Moreover, Major Khalil Tunayb, a former chief of intelligence for the PFLP-GC, is said to have confirmed the involvement of the PFLP-GC. In 1992, Tunayb stated that Khalid Nazir Jafaar had been used by the PFLP-GC as an unwitting accomplice to get the bomb bag aboard Flight 103.

Muslim fundamentalists in Lebanon and Detroit, with whom Jafaar had been affiliated, knew he was working in drug operations for the DEA and CIA. Neither Jibril, nor his Syrian sponsor, would care little for Jafaar as the young man belongs to a rival drug organization of the Lebanese infamous Bekaa valley.

Unsettled Dispute

An area of dispute was the refugee's age. "To be fair we did hear some discrepancy about his age," Stahl said.

U.S. intelligence reported that the man was born in 68, thus apparently embracing the denial of Tehran. If true, the man would have been about 20 years old at the time of the Lockerbie bombing and thus too young to have been in charge of such an operation.

"I wonder why anyone would believe an identification offered by the Iranian intelligence ministry," asked Stahl. On the other hand, the NCR insisted that Behbahani was not 32 but instead was in his mid-40s.

"60 Minutes" announced that upcoming additional evidence would resolve the dispute over the defector identity. CBS had been told that the man they questioned appeared in Iranian newscast showing a security detail for Rafsanjani.

The CBS program asked for the tape to be sent from Ankara by Federal Express. Unfortunately, the videotape mysteriously disappeared somewhere in Istanbul. And the backup copy suffered the same unfortunate fate. "I have to say the loss of that tape does add to my suspicions," Stahl said.

CIA Claims Defector Is an Imposter

Turkish officials described the defector as "not a person of great significance." If so, why did they decide to move Behbahani to Ankara? If true, why would the Turkish government tried to oppose U.S. requests to interview him?

After the usual bargaining -- Turkey is one of the highest beneficiaries of U.S. foreign help with Israel, Egypt and Colombia -- CIA debriefers were finally allowed to interview the refugee.

After just a few hours of questioning, CIA and FBI investigators dismissed him as an imposter. "This guy has been lying about lots of stuff," a senior U.S. official in Washington said.

Officials in the CIA and FBI have concluded that the man is "an imposter who lacks basic knowledge of Iran's intelligence apparatus," reported the Washington Post.

"He knows a few things, but nothing very much -- stuff that could have possibly come from somebody else," a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, was quoted as saying.

"But when it comes to serious stuff that he should know, he comes up empty. He still has not provided anything that has led CIA and FBI folks to believe his story."

"We expected the CIA and FBI to do this," said Don Hewitt, the veteran CBS "60 Minutes" producer. "Why go to these lengths to keep him hidden? If he's a fake, trot him out," Mr. Hewitt argued.

To say the least, none of the "60 Minutes" folks were quite satisfied with U.S. and Turkey Intelligence conclusion. "I don't know what to think. [...] But I'm suspicious of everybody in this story," Ms. Stahl said.

For my part, I am left wondering how the CIA could establish after a few hours of debriefing that the asylum seeker was impersonating an Iranian General the Agency had never heard of just a few days before.

But before closing this case, may we at least ask who general Behbahani is? What was his role in the Iranian regime? Has anyone else confirmed his defection? Has anyone provided a possible motivation for his action? Has anyone looked into his allegations in order to assess their plausibility? How could anyone be satisfied with the official line if these questions are not at least addressed?

A Short Biography

Ahmad Beladi Behbahani's father had worked in the shah's Royal Inspectorate General. After the Islamic Revolution, he went on working for the Iranian Foreign Ministry. The Behbahani are relatives of former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Ahmad Behbahani, the eldest son of the family, joined the paramilitary Komiteh, an internal security organ. The Komiteh later merged with the police to form the State Security Forces.

Behbahani was assigned to the team of bodyguards of Hashemi Rafsanjani. He was wounded in an assassination attempt on Rafsanjani in 1980.

Eventually Behbahani became the chief of Rafsanjani's bodyguards. In the years following the Islamic Revolution, he also worked with the Intelligence Unit of the Revolutionary Guards.

During the Rafsanjani presidency (1989-1997), Behbahani served as head of the Intelligence Section in the President's Office, according to a 1996 ninety-three-page report from the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group.

It is rumored that the Intelligence Unit's building became popularly known as the "Behbahani Building." The presidential office's intelligence unit, a coordinating body established by Rafsanjani, determines the Islamic regime's schedule of assassinations and terrorist attacks abroad. The unit also decides which agency carries them out.

Additionally, it has also been reported that Behbahani served as a vice commander of the Qods Force, which is widely considered as the most elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The 1,000 men strong elite force is mainly charged with exporting the revolution, and runs a number of military training camps in Iran, Lebanon, and Sudan.

Confirmation of his Defection

Abolhassan Bani-Sadr was elected the first president of Iran's Islamic Republic. On July 1981, he fled to France. On Sunday 4 2000, Bani-Sadr confirmed that Behbahani had left Iran earlier that year, probably in April, and that he had sought refuge in Turkey.

According to Bani-Sadr, the Turkish authorities were also hidden a second person identified as Akbari, who has once been a top aide to former Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian Bani-Sadr acknowledged that he knew Behbahani and that his office had interviewed him on the subject of political assassinations. Bani-Sadr confirmed that Behbahani had been vice-commander of the Qods Army.

Although Bani-Sadr had not seen Behbahani for almost two decades, he potentially identified him on a photograph shown to him by CBS. "The man looked like Ahmad Behbahani," said Bani-Sadr.

The Reason of his Defection

In his book The Dungeon of Ghosts, journalist Akbar Ganji describes the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS) procedures for identifying assassination targets. In 1998, the assassination of five dissident intellectuals and writers was exposed and criticized by the Iranian press.

As a direct result of this open criticism, some MOIS agents were brought to justice, on charge of conducting rogue operations. Sa'id Emami, one of MOIS's four deputy ministers, was arrested, and soon committed suicide in circumstances that were never explained.

The mystery surrounding his death led many Iranian journalists to speculate that MOIS officials had ordered Emami execution in order to prevent him from implicating others.

Certainly, Enami's story was no isolated incident. On March 12, 2000, Sa'id Hajjarian, a newspaper publisher and one of Khatami's closest advisors, escaped an assassination attempt.

Two suspects, Sa'id Asgar and Muhsin Majidi were quickly arrested, hastily convicted and sent to prison. Again, many observers speculated that the swiftness of the legal process was meant to put an early end to investigations that could implicate higher IRGC or MOIS officials.

It is reasonable to assume that Behbahani knew, or at least must have feared, that a similar fate awaited him. History certainly indicates that the hardliners were loosing some control over the MOIS to the reformers.

In 1996, Behbahani was identified by British parliamentarians as being the head of the intelligence section of the Iranian president's office under President Rafsanjani. He was said to have organized a dozen assassinations in Europe between 1986 and 1999.

The 93 pages report by the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, headed by Lord Avebury, said Behbahani was "a relative of Rafsanjani and designates the targets for assassination as well as deciding which organ is to carry out the plots".

Lord Avebury believes the above described speculation concerning the reason of Behbahani defection. "Fear of Iranian retribution may well have motivated Behbehani to flee, but his claims seemed valid," Avebury said.

"There had been a major shake-up of Iran's intelligence operations and prominent members of the organization had been arrested in January, about the same time that Behbahani claimed that he had lost power in Iran," Lord Avebury said.

Behbahani has made extremely grave allegations concerning the role that Iran played in various acts of terror around the planet. Specifically, Behbahani claimed that Iran commissioned the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie (88), the assassination of Abdulrahman Qassemlou, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, in Vienna (89), the bombings of the Israeli embassy (92), and the Jewish centre (94) in Buenos Aires, as well as the bombing of the Al-Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia (96).

These allegations may seem at first too extraordinary to be true. And indeed, it is well known and documented that asylum seekers will more often than not exaggerate, and sometimes fabricate, information in order to get some attention. Yet, Behbahani?s allegations can not, and should not, be dismissed prematurely.

Allegations Over Lockerbie (1988)

Behbahani alleged that the Lockerbie bombing was carried out in retaliation for the July 3 1988, downing of an Iran Air passenger jet by the U.S.S. Vincennes in the Persian Gulf, under the direct supervision of then President Ali Khamenei (later Iran's supreme leader), and then acting commander of the armed forces Rafsanjani (later President).

The radical Palestinian terrorist group PFLP-GC (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine?General Command), headed by Ahmed Jibril, was contracted to make the bomb.

"Jibril [...] agreed with the plan and sent a list of requirements which included explosives and other things he needed in order for the operation to be carried out."

Libyan intelligence operatives were recruited to carry out the attack. "We proceeded by bringing in a group of Libyans into Iran and training them at a special site, called the Lavison School, for a period of 90 days. The bomb was so very sophisticated that it required that kind of intensive training."

The explosives used in the Lockerbie bombing were transferred through the Frankfurt international airport by an Iranian intelligence agent, Hossein Marvastizadeh, who was then in charge of security for the Iran Air Office. Marvastizadeh later became head of the Yazd airport in central Iran. Another Iranian agent named Talebian, then head of the Iran Air office in Frankfurt, provided local help to Marvastizadeh.

The allegations of Behbahani concerning the Lockerbie bombing are certainly consistent with the conclusions reached by various Intelligence agencies.

The Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (in German: Bundeskriminalamt or BKA), working with German intelligence, established that the bomb had been carried to Frankfurt from Damascus via Cyprus contrary to the conviction of Megrahi which states, without a shred of evidence, that the bomb started its journey from Malta. Both German and Maltese authorities dropped all charges against the Libyans.

It has also been alleged that, two days after the downing of Pan Am 103, Israeli intelligence intercepted a phone call from the Interior Ministry in Teheran to the Iranian embassy in Beirut. During the conversation, the ambassador was congratulated for the "successful operation" and was told to hand over to the PFLP-GC the remaining funds.

Neither Israel nor the PLO has ever accepted the conclusion of the Lockerbie trial. Both blame Jibril organization for the bombing. Many observers believe that the trial was influenced by Western Intelligence.

Commenting on the verdict, Hans Koechler, U.N. observer at the Zeist trial, stated that "Proper judicial procedure is simply impossible if political interests and intelligence services - from whichever side - succeed in interfering in the actual conduct of a court ... The purpose of intelligence services - from whichever side - lies in secret action and deception, not in the search for truth. Justice and the rule of law can never be achieved without transparency."

Confession of Murder (1989)

The defector also alleged that he personally took part in the 1989 assassination of Abdulrahman Qassemlou in Vienna.

On July 13, 1989, Abdul-Rahman Qassemlou, the secretary general of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, Abdullah Qaderi, a member of the Party's Central Committee, and a Kurdish middleman were gunned down by a team from the Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The three men had been tricked into believing that, following the recent death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Musawi Khomeini (June 3 1989), the regime was now willing to negotiate with them.

The person commanding the attack was Brigadier General Muhammad-Jafari Sahraroudi, head of Ramadan Garrison of the IRGC and chief of the Intelligence Directorate of the Guard Corps Qods Force.

The NRC has alleged that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the commander of the backup team in the operation. Sahraroudi had entered Austria using a diplomatic passport under the false identity of Rahimi.

Police arrested Sahraroudi. But Austrian authorities released him quickly, allegedly fearing Iranian retaliation if it did not do so. Sahraroudi immediately and safely returned to Iran.

Allegations Over Buenos Aires Bombings (1992 - 1994)

On March 17 1992, the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, killed 32 persons. Two years later, on July 18 1994, the bombing of a Jewish centre (AMIA) killed 85 people and wounded more than 300.

Behbahani claimed that Iran had also masterminded both bombings, once more contracting the assistance of Jibril and Libyan agents. A few years before, Mesbahi had said that the operation was led by, the cultural attache of the Iranian Embassy and supervised by Hamid Naghashan, a senior official in the Iranian intelligence agency, whose name surfaced in the Lockerbie affair.

"One cell focused on cooperating with members of the Argentine police, corrupting them or threatening them to collaborate with the attack while another devoted itself to obtaining the explosives in Brazil" reported the New York Times.

Mesbahi also accused then President Carlos Menem of accepting a U.S.$10 million bribe to obstruct the investigation. The existence of Menem secret Swiss account was later established. The origin of the money deposited on this account was never satisfactorily explained.

All roads led to Hezbollah as well as Iran and Syria. Ten days before the bombing, the Argentine government had been warned of the impending attack by a man named Dos Santos who provided various details of the plot to the Argentine Consulate in Milan. An investigation of Dos Santos warning confirmed the role of Mohsen Rabbani.

Carlos Saul Menem, President of Argentina from July 8 1989 to December 10 1999, is infamous for corruption and his dubious handling of the investigations of both bombings. In fact, Argentineans have coined the word "Menemism" to describe the various activities of their government intended to hide the truth about these two acts of terror.

At one point, investigators claimed that the embassy had been destroyed by a bomb located inside the building. Other investigators, including from the U.S., determined with certainty that the building had been destroyed by about 65 kilograms of Semtex hidden in a truck parked outside the embassy.

Two months after the destruction of the Israeli Embassy, the U.S. government pointed the finger in the direction of Tehran. "The United States has uncovered strong indications that Iranian diplomats helped plan the March 17 bombing," a senior U.S. State Department official said.

The suicide bomber who carried out the terrorist attack on the Jewish center was identified in late 2002. According to a report of the Argentina State Intelligence Agency (SIDE), presented to Judge Galeano in January 2003, the truck driver was young Lebanese Hezbollah militant from Baalbeck named Ibrahim Hussein Berro.

The CIA and the Mossad informed the Argentine intelligence that seventeen couriers had arrived at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires several days before the blast and all had left by July 17, the day before the attack. On the basis of the SIDE report, prosecutors Eamon Mullen, Jose Barbaccia and Alberto Nisman demanded the arrest of 17 Iranians.

The group includes some of the most important Iranian officials in Argentina at the time of the 1994 bombing as well as Imad Fayez Mugniyah, one of the twenty-two most wanted terrorists on the list released by President George W. Bush on 10 October 2001.

And the involvement of Syria was no less certain. A 2000 report compiled by Accion por la Republica, an Argentine political party headed by former minister Domingo Cavallo, provides evidence of Syrian complicity in the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. (The PFLP-GC is based in Syria where it enjoys full protection of the government as well as generous funding from Iran.)

The report states that, during Menem Presidency, any possibility of the Syrian government involvement in the preparation or execution of the bombings has been systematically and completely ignored.

"Days after the eight anniversary of the attack on the Embassy of Israel and almost six years since the attack on AMIA, little to almost nothing has advanced in the investigations of the cause of these actions," the report states.

"Various groups . . . have systematically denounced the irregularities during the judicial process, the manipulation and disappearance of evidence, going so far as to petition international entities, such as the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, to denounce the attitude adopted by the previous administration with respect to the development of events."

This report hypothesizes a "Syrian connection" to the bombing of the Israeli embassy and the AMIA building, mainly through the presence and suspicious activities of a Syrian, Monzer al-Kazzar and his organizing role of the then presidential candidate Carlos Menem's trip to Syria in 1988.

In return for campaign funding, Menem promised Syria and Iran that Argentina would provide them nuclear and missile technologies (Condor II). For various reasons, once elected, Menem was not able to deliver the promised cooperation. Many have suggested that this explained how Argentina, against all odds, became involved in the Middle East conflict.

Come to think of it, no one ever proposed a plausible alternative theory. Prior to its 1992 attack in Buenos Aires, neither Iran nor Hezbollah had attacked Israeli or Jewish targets abroad. How else could a country so alienated to the Middle East region become part of its conflict?

Although U.S. and Israel Intelligence Agencies knew of Syria involvement in the Buenos Aires bombing, they would soon focus exclusively on Iran and Hezbollah. Simply put, exposing the cooperation of Menem with Assad regime was not serving the immediate American and Israeli agenda.

American and Israeli needed to co-opt Syria in the Middle East peace process. "It was in no one's interest to bring this out," commented a senior Argentine Foreign Ministry official. Argentine Jewish leaders had also come to believe that an indictment of Syria would help neither Israel nor the Middle East peace process.

Khobar Bombing (1996)

Behbahani finally claimed that Iran masterminded the 1996 truck bombing of Khobar Towers

On June 25, 1996, part of a housing complex in the city of Khobar, Saudi Arabia, known as the Khobar Towers and located near the national oil company (Saudi Aramco) headquarters of Dhahran was destroyed by a powerful explosion.

The housing complex was being used to house foreign military personnel. 19 U.S. servicemen were killed in the blast. Moreover, 109 Americans, 147 Saudis, and 18 Bangladesh nationals were wounded.

Behbahani claimed that Ali Khamenei ordered the bombing while Brigadier General Ahmad Sharifi, commander of Unit 6000 of the IRGC, directed the operation.

On July 31, 1996, Khamenei praised the blast. "All those countries which still support terrorism would be punished; specially the U.S. which backs the Zionist regime in Palestine," Khamenei said.

Since the early days of the investigation, the U.S. government has suspected that Iranians had a hand in the bombing. At an October 5 1999 briefing, State Department spokesman James Rubin revealed that the U.S. had linked the bombing to Iran.

Suspects have traveled to Iran after the bombing and there is an ongoing investigation into the involvement of Iranian government officials, Rubin said. President Bill Clinton officially requested Iranian President Muhammad Khatami assistance in the investigation of the Khobar Towers bombing.

The Kassar - Menem Connection

Monzer al-Kassar is a Syrian arms and drugs smuggler, married to Raghda Dubah, sister of Ali Issa Dubah, a former chief of Syrian intelligence, and a close associate of Rifat Assad, the brother of Syria's President Hafez Assad.

Rifat Assad, the Syrian boss of the Lebanese heroin industry, and Monzer al-Kassar took over the Bekaa Valley in 1975 with the help of the Syrian Army.

Al-Kassar's mistresses in Paris included Raja al-Assad, Rifat Assad's daughter, and a former Miss Lebanon who had previously been married to Abu Abbas, who masterminded the Achille Lauro hijacking.

Kassar connections read like the "Who's who" of international criminality. Over his long career, he has been involved with Colonel Oliver North and General Richard Secord (Iran-Contra); the International Bank for Credit and Commerce (BCCI); the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and its leader, Ahmad Jibril; Abu Abbas, leader of another PLO extremist splinter group, the Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF); the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-Special Command (PFLP-SC) headed by Georges Habash; the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) headed by Naif Hawatmeh; and Abu Nidal, leader of the Fatah Revolutionary Council

It has been alleged that since his recruitment as a CIA asset, Monzer al-Kassar, has been receiving a regular CIA stipend deposited to his credit at the Katherein Bank, Vienna (A/c No. 50307495) and at the Swiss Bank Corporation in Geneva (A/c No. 510230C-86).

Kassar has been deeply involved with former Argentine President Carlos Menem. Their parents were from the same city in Syria, Yabroud. Menem is a Sunni Muslim who converted to Roman Catholicism to fulfill the constitutional requirement for eligibility to public office.

Al Kassar is a cousin to Menem's former wife, Zulema Yoma, also of Syrian origin. It is thus little surprise that Kassar obtained a full set of Argentine documents in record time.

Shortly after his election to the Presidency, Menem nominated Ibrahim al Ibrahim, a long time friend of Kassar and a former colonel in Syrian intelligence, as head of the Argentina customs, although Ibrahim does not speak Spanish. Ibrahim is however married to the sister-in-law of Menem.

Kassar was officially appointed arms dealer for the Menem Government and with the help of Ibrahim running the Airport Customs, goods began to circulate without any governmental oversight. Argentina began to sell large amount of weapons to Ecuador in 1992 and to Croatia in 1994.

In October 1998, U.S. State Department official Daniel Nelson said that the U.S. Government had "winked" at the arms sales to Croatia. Newspaper also reported that U.S. ambassador James Cheek had taken steps to insure that the plane that was to carry the arms to Ecuador could land in the Buenos Aires international airport. Cheek denied the allegation.

Interestingly, he plane was a DC-8 belonging to the U.S. Company Fine Air, which had been contracted by French-U.S. arms trafficker Jean Bernard Lasnaud for the operation through the company Airline Equipment Specialists (AES). In the 1980s, AES worked with the U.S.-sponsored Nicaraguan contras.

The report of the Special Bicameral Commission for the "Follow-up of the Investigation of the Terrorist Acts Against the Israeli Embassy and the AMIA building" lists both Al Kassar and Ibrahim al Ibrahim as prime suspects in the bombings. A judge has even established how Kassar bought the Semtex in Spain, moved it to Damascus and then brought it to Argentina with the complicity of Ibrahim.

The Kassar - Lockerbie Connection

In the late 80s, Kassar was running a highly profitable heroin smuggling operation. Drugs from the Bekaa valley would transit trough Germany and supply mostly the East Coast of United States. The whole operation was risk free, as arrangements had been secured with U.S. and German Intelligence Agencies.

DEA has admitted running controlled delivery through Frankfurt Airport using Pan Am and a German Authority official has stated that the truth about Lockerbie is to be found in this drug operation. It has also been alleged that, in the follow up of the Iran-Contra scheme, Kassar was allowed to use this smuggling route in exchange for his help to free the American hostages in Lebanon.

Many insiders have no doubt that the al-Kassar's drug-smuggling arrangements at Frankfurt were employed to put the bomb in the cargo hold of Pan Am 103 on this fateful day. Israeli Intelligence reported that Jibril and Kassar had met alone in a restaurant in Paris just weeks before the Lockerbie bombing.

Charles McKee and four other members of his CIA investigative team were returning from Beirut and died on Pan Am 103. Kassar had means and motive. Yet, he was never investigated, let alone indicted.

But then again, the indictment of Monzer Al-Kassar, brother-in-law of Syria's intelligence chief, and the lover of President Hafez Al-Assad's niece, would have been most politically inexpedient as Washington and London were preparing for the Gulf War in which the co-operation of Syria was an absolute sine qua non.

The Mysterious Arrest of Monzer al-Kazaar (June 2007)

On June 8, the DEA announced the arrest in Spain of Monzer al Kassar. Two associates of Kassar's, Tareq Mousa al Ghazi and Luis Felipe Moreno, were simultaneously arrested in Romania.
The prosecutor's office alleges that Kassar was arrested after an undercover operation in which he engaged in a purported deal to supply the FARC?s (Marxist rebels in Colombia) with millions of dollars' worth of weapons.

DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy, who announced the arrest with Garcia, said, "Monzer al Kassar operates in the shadows, the silent partner behind the business of death and terror. He commands a global munitions empire, arming and funding insurgents and terrorists across the globe, particularly those who wish to harm Americans."

Michael J. Garcia, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, stated that "Monzer al Kassar has long been one of the most prolific arms dealers in the world. He has supported terrorists and insurgents by providing them with high-powered weapons that have fueled the most violent conflicts of the last three decades."

"The weapons that Kassar and his co-defendants agreed to provide included close to 8,000 machine guns, 2 million rounds of ammunition, 120 rocket-propelled grenade launchers ("RPGS"), 2,400 hand grenades, and surface-to-air missile systems ("SAMS") specifically designed to take down United States helicopters," Garcia said in his prepared remarks

"Kassar offered to send 1,000 men to fight with the FARC against U.S. military in Colombia, and agreed to supply thousands of pounds of explosives," Garcia added.

Why So Much Discretion About al Kassar's Arrest?

The administration has been amazingly quite about Kassar's arrest. Neither the White House nor the DOJ issued statements for public release.

The timing of the arrest may provide some clue as to why the White House has been astonishingly low-key about catching one of the most important criminals of our time.

I cannot help noticing that Kassar was arrested just days before a special commission announced that the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing was granted a second extraordinary appeal and just days after Blair went to Tripoli to negotiate a deal that would save him the embarrassment of a fresh appeal.

Connecting the Dots

I find the statements of U.S., Iranian and Turkish officials concerning Behbahani highly suspicious, indeed contradictory at time. On the other hand, the allegations made by Behbahani and Mesbahi appear consistent, coherent and thus quite plausible.

In most cases, their allegations have in fact been backed up by Western and Israeli Intelligence. Their version of the events displays at time extraordinary similarities. The parallelism between the Lockerbie and the Buenos Aires affair is particularly striking.

This raises a simple question. Where are Behbahani and Mesbahi? And why have we not heard from them since 2000? If the U.S. State Department is willing to reward a Libyan mechanic employed by the JSO $4 million to fabricate bogus allegations, how much would they be willing to offer a Iranian General, Head of Intelligence Section of the President office, for not telling the truth?

Ludwig De Braeckeleer has a Ph.D. in nuclear sciences. He teaches physics and international humanitarian law. He blogs on The GaiaPost.
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ludwig De Braeckeleer

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