new regime

Iranian president taps second Buenos Aires Jewish center bombing suspect for senior administration role

Mohsen Rezaei, who will serve as vice president for economic affairs, is wanted by Interpol for his role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center

Scott Peterson/Getty Images

Mohsen Rezaei, a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander and two-time presidential candidate (in uniform), stands during Friday Prayers during a Qods (Jerusalem) Day rally, an annual pro-Palestinian event, in Tehran, Iran, on July 10, 2015.

Less than a month into his administration, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is filling top government positions with hardliners, including two men wanted by Interpol for their roles in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Argentina.

On Wednesday, Raisi appointed former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps leader Mohsen Rezaei to serve as his vice president for economic affairs, according to a state news agency. Rezaei ran against Raisi in the presidential election earlier this year. 

Rezaei’s appointment comes days after Raisi named Ahmad Vahidi to be interior minister. Both men are wanted for their roles in the attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association that killed 85 people and injured hundreds more. Rezaei has called the allegations a “sheer lie.”

The attack was carried out by a Lebanese suicide bomber tied to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terror group, and investigators in Argentina and the United States determined that high-level Iranian government officials had planned and ordered the attack. Rezaei and Vahidi are two of six Iranians sought through Interpol red notices issued in 2007.

A man prays in front of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish community center during the commemoration of the 23rd anniversary of the terrorist bombing attack that killed 85 people and injured 300, in Buenos Aires on July 18, 2017.
(Photo credit: Juan Mabromata/AFP via Getty Images)

“There’s tremendous evidence [against them],” said Matthew Levitt, ​​a former FBI investigator and deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Treasury Department who is now the Fromer-Wexler Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “As for their participation in this regime, it is sickening but not surprising.”

Both Rezaei and Vahidi have held senior roles with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The AMIA bombing took place during the 17 years that Rezaei led the IRGC. Vahidi was the head of IRGC’s international arm, the Quds Force, during the time of the attack. 

“The Islamic Republic’s cabinet is shaping up to be a who’s who of men more known for the terrorism and wanted lists they are on than for their concern for the Iranian population,” said Toby Dershowitz, senior vice president for government relations and strategy at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

No suspects have been tried for the AMIA attack, and the investigation was criticized from the beginning for alleged coverups. Prosecutor Alberto Nisman was killed in 2015, a day before he was scheduled to present evidence that then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had orchestrated an effort to cover up Iran’s involvement in the bombing to protect a trade agreement with Tehran. 

“We left Argentina just after the bombing, mostly because we had a feeling that there was no political will to bring those responsible to justice,” Rabbi Mario Karpuj, who moved to Chile with his wife and daughter soon after the bombing, told Jewish Insider. “This is exactly the outcome of just that reality. Because we didn’t have any justice, governments feel free to just put these people there.”

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