alberto nisman

Alberto Nisman Was Murdered, But We Still Don’t Know Why

Investigators in Argentina have finally determined, after more than two-and-a-half years, that the gunshot to the head that killed controversial prosecutor Alberto Nisman in January 2015 was delivered by someone other than Nisman himself…

Read this piece in its entirety at LobeLog.

Advertisements

U.S. Involvement in the AMIA Bombing Investigation: Keeping Iran “in the Dock”

The text below is the executive summary of the substantial research paper I completed during the spring semester of 2016 as the capstone requirement for earning a master’s degree in U.S. foreign policy and national security from the American University School of International Service.

I spent the better part of a year researching and writing this essay, and I would be remiss not to thank my advisor, Dr. Philip Brenner, as well as Carlos Osorio of the National Security Archive for their invaluable guidance and assistance throughout the course of this project.

The full paper is available here and is also embedded at the bottom of this post.

This substantial research project focuses on U.S. involvement in the investigation of the July 18, 1994 terrorist attack that destroyed the Buenos Aires headquarters of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association, better known by its Spanish acronym, AMIA. My research suggests that the United States promoted a theory of culpability for the attack that implicated high-level Iranian government officials in the AMIA bombing not for the strength of the evidence, but rather due to political motives; primarily, antagonism toward Iran. During my research, I did not encounter any academic examinations of the U.S. role in the AMIA investigation, nor did I find any substantial studies of the ways in which geopolitical concerns may affect which investigative avenues the United States is willing to support when cooperating with other countries on terrorism investigations. Therefore, this research represents an initial step toward developing a better understanding of these little-studied aspects of international relations.

My conclusions derive from an extensive examination of many hundreds of pages of primary source documents related to the investigation of the AMIA attack and the circumstances surrounding it, including diplomatic cables, judicial filings, intelligence reports and internal government correspondence. I also relied on works by journalists and scholars who have done prior research on the AMIA bombing and related topics. My aim is not to definitively disprove the hypothesis I refer to as the “Iran Theory,” but rather to explore some of the major shortcomings in the evidence cited by its proponents in order to consider whether U.S. antagonism toward Iran and distrust of Argentina’s investigative abilities contributed to the persistence of this line of investigation.

The evidence for the Iran Theory is largely circumstantial. Essentially, its proponents argue that Argentina’s decision to suspend cooperation on nuclear technology with Iran in the early 1990s angered the Iranian government to such an extent that high-level Iranian officials ordered the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to carry out the AMIA attack. Hezbollah had threatened to retaliate against Israel’s abduction and torture of a Lebanese militant leader named Mustafa Dirani weeks before the AMIA bombing, which led some U.S. intelligence analysts to conclude that the attack also served as revenge for Israel’s treatment of Dirani.[1] Additionally, other apparent terrorist acts against Jewish and Israeli targets immediately following the AMIA bombing contributed to the perception within the U.S. government that these incidents constituted a “coordinated terrorist campaign…against Israel” carried out by Hezbollah with Iranian support.[2]

Additionally, proponents of the Iran Theory have cited the testimony of several Iranian defectors as corroboration for this hypothesis. However, the U.S. embassy in Argentina determined that the first defector to provide such testimony, Monoucher Moatamer, “wasn’t credible.”[3] An FBI investigator who worked on the AMIA case described a second defector who repeatedly implicated Iranian officials in the attack, Abdolghassem Mesbahi, as “full of shit.”[4] Furthermore, the FBI and CIA determined that a man calling himself Ahmad Behbahani, who also alleged the involvement of the Iranian government, was an imposter who was “lying about lots of stuff.”[5]

In 2007, James Cheek, the American ambassador in Argentina at the time of the AMIA attack, stated that “there was never any real evidence” supporting assertions of Iranian involvement.[6] Similarly, Ronald Godard, the Deputy Chief of Mission in the U.S. embassy at the time of the bombing, later said that the “whole Iran thing seemed kind of flimsy.”[7] Nevertheless, linking top Iranian government officials to the AMIA attack served to reinforce a broader U.S. government portrayal of Iran as a hostile nation capable of using terrorism against Western countries in pursuit of its political goals. The U.S. government relied heavily on the perpetuation of this narrative in attempts to achieve its major foreign policy objectives with regard to Iran; namely, constraining the country’s geopolitical influence and denying its attempts to attain nuclear enrichment capabilities.

In an August 1994 State Department cable, Cheek himself seemed to acknowledge this dynamic when he admitted “the absence of direct links” between Iranian government officials and the AMIA attack, while praising “a steady campaign to keep Iranian complicity in global terrorism in the public eye” that had “kept the Iranians in the dock where they belong.”[8] This statement foreshadowed later efforts by the United States to use the allegation of Iranian involvement in the AMIA bombing as a justification for its antagonistic foreign policy stance toward Iran.

The most illustrative example of this is the extensive role the United States played in the campaign to get the international law enforcement organization INTERPOL to issue wanted advisories known as “red notices” against Iranian suspects in the AMIA case. The first such “red notices” were issued in 2003, but were rescinded in 2005 after evidence surfaced indicating improper handling of the AMIA case by Argentine judicial officials.[9] When the Argentine government submitted a request to have the “red notices” reinstated in early 2007, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice instructed American diplomats to “approach host governments at the highest level to convey U.S. strong support in this matter.”[10] American Journalist Mark Perelman reported that the administration of President George W. Bush planned to use the charges against Iranian officials “to highlight Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism to convince reluctant U.N. Security Council members…that Iran’s nuclear ambitions should be neutralized.”[11]

The election of U.S. President Barack Obama represented the beginning of a shift in U.S. relations with Iran. In contrast to President Bill Clinton’s administration, which had pursued a policy of “containment” toward Iran,[12] and President George W. Bush’s administration, which had adopted an even more aggressive posture,[13] the Obama administration sought to deny Iran’s attempts to advance its nuclear capabilities through sanctions and diplomatic negotiations.[14] As part of this shift, the executive branch largely stopped relying on the Iran Theory to keep Iran “in the dock.” But still, opponents of rapprochement with Iran in the U.S. congress continued to raise the issue of alleged Iranian involvement in the AMIA attack as a justification for their opposition to the negotiations, which eventually resulted in an accord announced in July 2015.[15]

In addition to demonstrating how easily terrorism investigations can become politicized in both the domestic and international arena, the AMIA saga also highlights the necessity of closely and critically examining such cases. If scholars and policy makers want to accurately understand history, engaging in rigorous analysis of primary source documents like the ones cited in my substantial research paper should be the first step. Current public discourse and scholarship treats Iranian responsibility for the AMIA attack as virtually an unquestioned fact.[16] But as my essay demonstrates, a thorough consideration of the available evidence shows that the Iran Theory is substantially less robust than it has been made to seem.


REFERENCES:

[1] DCI Counterterrorist Center, “Counterterrorist Center Commentary: Hizballah Attacks Israel in Buenos Aires?” (Central Intelligence Agency, July 18, 1994).; This document is not yet available to the public.

[2] DCI Counterterrorist Center, “Counterterrorist Center Commentary: Possible Hizballah Bombing Campaign” (Central Intelligence Agency, July 27, 1994).; This document is not yet available to the public.

[3] Gareth Porter, “US Officials Rejected Key Source on ‘94 Argentina Bombing,” Antiwar.com, January 24, 2008, http://www.antiwar.com/porter/?articleid=12254.

[4] Dexter Filkins, “Death of a Prosecutor,” The New Yorker, July 20, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/death-of-a-prosecutor.

[5] CBS News, “Is Lockerbie Iran Defector A Fake?,” CBS News, June 3, 2000, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/is-lockerbie-iran-defector-a-fake/.

[6] Gareth Porter, “Bush’s Iran/Argentina Terror Frame-Up,” The Nation, January 18, 2008, http://www.thenation.com/article/bushs-iranargentina-terror-frame/.

[7] Ibid.

[8] James Cheek, “94BUENOSAIRES5695 – The Iran Connection: Iran Stays in the Dock for the AMIA Bombing” (U.S. Department of State, August 29, 1994), https://foia.state.gov/searchapp/DOCUMENTS/Waterfall/190108.pdf.

[9] INTERPOL, “Argentinean Red Notices for Iranian Officials Cancelled,” INTERPOL, September 27, 2005, http://www.interpol.int/News-and-media/News/2005/PR041.

[10] Condoleezza Rice, “07STATE29082 – Demarche Request – Argentina’s Request for USG Assistance in Connection with March 13-15 Interpol Executive Committee Meeting in Lyon, France” (U.S. Department of State, March 8, 2007), https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/07STATE29082_a.html.

[11] Marc Perelman, “U.S. Set To Raise ‘94 Attack,” The Forward, November 3, 2006, http://forward.com/news/7417/us-set-to-raise-94-attack/.

[12] F. Gregory Gause III, “The Illogic of Dual Containment,” Foreign Affairs, April 1994, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/1994-03-01/illogic-dual-containment.

[13] Gareth Porter, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (Charlottesville, Virginia: Just World Books, 2014), pp. 135-137.

[14] Jeffrey Goldberg, “Obama’s Crystal-Clear Promise to Stop Iran From Getting a Nuclear Weapon,” The Atlantic, October 2, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/10/obamas-crystal-clear-promise-to-stop-iran-from-getting-a-nuclear-weapon/262951/.

[15] See, for example: Examining the State Department’s Report on Iranian Presence in the Western Hemisphere 19 Years after the AMIA Attack (Washington, D.C.: House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 2013), http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/joint-subcommittee-hearing-examining-state-department’s-report-iranian-presence-western.

[16] Toby Dershowitz and Joseph Humire, “US should help Argentina solve terrorism case,” The Hill, January 18, 2016, http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/266101-us-should-help-argentina-solve-terrorism-case.


The full paper is available as a PDF below:

Exclusive: Documents Confirm Leak of Unexplained Deposits to Nisman’s US Bank Account

Documents obtained exclusively by LobeLog confirm that Argentine officials violated an agreement with the US Treasury Department by leaking sensitive financial information regarding deceased prosecutor Alberto Nisman. These leaks could complicate further US-Argentine cooperation in the controversial investigations surrounding Nisman’s death…

Read this piece in its entirety at LobeLog.

The documents on which this article relies can be found below:

“Vulture” Public Diplomacy in Argentina

Cross-posted with Public Diplomacy Musings

The mysterious death of an Argentine prosecutor named Alberto Nisman has roiled the South American nation since January. Initial reports indicated Nisman had committed suicide, but in the past several months, a panoply of theories about the “real” story behind Nisman’s death have been explored by various segments of Argentine society.

Less than a week before Nisman died in the bathroom of his apartment from a single gunshot wound to the head, the prosecutor had published a detailed report claiming that Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman had made a secret deal with Iranian officials who were allegedly involved in the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish community center, described by some as the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history.

Nisman said that the Argentines had offered the Iranians immunity in exchange for closer economic relations between the two countries. An Argentine judge recently declared that the accusations described in Nisman’s report “do not constitute a crime,” but some of his colleagues have contested his decision.

The timing of Nisman’s death is highly suspect, given that he was scheduled to testify regarding his allegations before the congress the next day. Some have theorized that Nisman could have been “suicided,” a term Argentines use to refer to assassinations that are staged as suicides. The suspected motives behind Nisman’s supposed “suiciding” are too various and sundry to concisely summarize here, but most of them are related in one way or another to the prosecutor’s years-long investigation of the AMIA attack.

No one has ever been convicted for the AMIA bombing and the facts of Nisman’s case are still coming out, but this has not stopped politicians from, well, politicizing the issue. Opposition parties have attempted to harness the high-profile story to amplify their anti-corruption message ahead of a general election this year. The governor of Buenos Aires province, Daniel Scioli, a staunch supporter of President Kirchner and himself a presidential aspirant, praised the recent ruling that declared the case against Kirchner insufficient, blaming a “media and political operation” for “the international damage that [Nisman’s] false accusation created.”

President Kirchner herself has also commented quite frequently on the case. In a column published earlier this week on her official website, titled “Everything has to do with everything” Kirchner claimed that her administration had been targeted by “a global modus operandi, which not only severely injures national sovereignty, but also generates international political operations of any type, shape and colour.”

Many commentators tend to dismiss the Argentine government’s official statements on the case as propaganda and conspiracy theories meant to confuse and distract from the unanswered questions about Nisman’s death. The well-respected Argentine journalist Uki Goñi recently characterized President Kirchner as having “gone on the offensive against her critics” with her latest salvo “by claiming she is the target of a conspiracy between US ‘vulture funds,’ Jewish community groups and the prosecutor Alberto Nisman.”

However, in this instance – at least from Kirchner’s point of view – it is these groups that seem to have “gone on the offensive” against her.

As I wrote for Counterpunch last year, when Argentina defaulted on its national debt in 2001 “more than 90% of lenders subsequently agreed to restructuring deals that allowed the country to exchange new bonds for the defaulted ones at a significant loss for the creditors. However, some investment firms labelled ‘vulture funds’ by their critic…bought up Argentine bonds at discount prices, hoping to use the US legal system to force the country to repay their full value.”

Since 2007, a US-based organization financed by the vulture funds called American Task Force Argentina (ATFA) has spent millions of dollars on a campaign to “do whatever we can to get our government and media’s attention focused on what a bad actor Argentina is,” in the words of the group’s executive director. This included funding a series of advertisements in 2013 warning about Argentina’s relationship with Iran.

In 2014, ATFA’s spending on lobbying increased by nearly 50 percent as the legal fight between the vulture funds and Argentina continued to heat up. The Buenos Aires Herald reported last month that Paul Singer, the owner of a prominent vulture fund and one of the major backers of ATFA, is also the second-biggest donor to the pro-Israel group Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), which “launched a website and award to honour the memory of late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman.”

Goñi reported that a spokesperson for Singer’s hedge fund denied the “allegation that Mr Singer had any contact whatsoever with Mr Nisman” and “Jewish leaders also responded angrily to the president’s claims.” Yet the fact remains that Singer plays a substantial role in supporting organizations that have loudly and consistently challenged Kirchner’s government regarding both the AMIA case as well as the ongoing debt dispute.

This does not excuse the apparently botched investigation of Nisman’s death and the lack of a conclusive resolution to the AMIA case, but these hyperbolic and vitriolic communications campaigns backed by billionaires have needlessly enflamed the situation. In part, the Kirchner government’s hyped-up rhetoric might be a response to the onslaught of the international information campaign waged against the country in recent years, fueled in large part by groups like ATFA.

Notes on the Death of Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman and the AMIA Bombing

Alberto Nisman, the Argentine federal prosecutor who accused President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner last week of a cover-up connected to the country’s worst-ever terrorist attack, has been found shot dead in the bathroom of his home in Buenos Aires. According to the Daily Beast, “Ten members of the Argentine Federal Police force had been assigned to him as bodyguards, but it seems they were not deployed when he was at home.”

The prosecutor published a 300-page report on Wednesday alleging that President Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman had opened a secret back channel to Iranian agents suspected of involvement in the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish community center, which left dozens dead and hundreds more injured.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Nisman “said the scheme intended to clear the suspects so Argentina could start swapping grains for much-needed oil from Iran, which denies any connection with the bombing.” According to the Wall Street JournalNisman also called for a freeze on $23 million worth of Kirchner’s assets and told reporters that he had “‘a great deal of evidence’ implicating the president in the matter,” including evidence derived from wiretaps.

The Journal also reported that “Nisman was supposed to appear at a congressional hearing on Monday to provide more details about the allegations, which Argentine officials have vigorously denied.” The Argentine media outlet Clarín reported last week that Nisman said, “I could end up dead because of this,” referring to his years-long investigation, for which he has previously reported receiving death threats. The New York Times reports that Nisman did not leave a suicide note.

***

A July 2006 cable from the U.S. State Department lays out the early history of the investigation into the attack in broad strokes:

The 1994 attack and initial investigation occurred under the administration of former [Argentine] president Carlos Menem. [REDACTED] Early on [REDACTED] investigators made the Iranian/Hezbollah connection. Judge [Juan Jose] Galeano was able to make significant progress and pull together credible, circumstantial evidence linking Iran and Hezbollah to the attacks, as well as uncovering the complicity of the local Argentines in providing the stolen vehicle used in the attack. The trial of the local defendants by a panel of three judges began in September 2001, with the defendants ultimately acquitted three years later in September 2004.

According to a 1999 article from Jewish advocacy group AJC, “five years after the 1994 bombing, there [was] only a glimmer of hope that at least a small part of the case [would] be solved.”

The AMIA legal team pointed out in an interview with the author what they consider the most important fact in the five-year-long investigation: of the twenty persons facing charges in the case, no less than fifteen are policemen, including high-ranking officers in the Buenos Aires Province police force, the largest in the country. Officials investigating the case make no secret of their suspicion that army personnel were involved in the preparation of the attack, providing explosives and intelligence.

As I wrote for Security Assistance Monitor last November, “An October 2014 investigative report by Mexico’s El Universal newspaper titled ‘Here the police are the Mafia’ (‘Aquí la Policía es la Mafia’) explored widespread allegations of corruption and abuse against state officials at virtually all levels of Argentina’s security apparatus.”

While diplomatic dust-ups between the United States and Argentina, such as the latter’s sovereign debt, have dominated recent headlines, these spats do not seem to have interfered with cooperation on efforts to combat these rising rates of drug-related crime. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S.Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) both have plans to continue training provincial police forces and to strengthen information sharing agreements with Argentine law enforcement.

The Buenos Aires provincial police have received criticism for their alleged involvement in forced evictions and disappearances, including the 2009 disappearance of a local teenager whose body was only recently discovered and identified. According to the Argentine Center for Legal and Social Studies, police were responsible for the deaths of 98 civilians in the city and province of Buenos Aires in 2013.

The 2006 State Department cable also says that Nisman had come to the same conclusions as Galeano but the timeframe for the public release of Nisman’s findings remained unclear. The cable explains:

The AMIA investigation has been plagued by controversy and political manipulation from the very beginning. In late 2004 several Buenos Aires police officers and a local chop-shop owner, who had been charged with conspiracy in providing the vehicle used in the attack, were acquitted, largely due to inappropriate activities by the original investigating judge, Juan Jose Galeano. In December 2003, a three-judge panel removed Judge Galeano (the judicial panel also recused the investigating prosecutors Jose Barbaccia and Eamon Mullen from the case in April 2004), ruling that Galeano had committed a number of judicial improprieties, including authorizing SIDE (the Argentine Intelligence Agency) to make a $400,000 under-the-table payment to the chop-shop owner in return for testimony alleging the complicity of the Buenos Aires police officers in the crime. The chop-shop owner, while guilty of involvement in an auto theft ring, had no foreknowledge the vehicle he sold would be used for the attack.

The document also notes that former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner “strongly pressed for reenergizing the stalled investigation, creating the new Special Prosecuting Unit led by General Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, a highly regarded and energetic young prosecutor…In frequent meetings with Argentine and U.S. Jewish community leaders, President Kirchner has vowed to support the investigation ‘wherever it leads and to whomever it implicates.'”

Nisman initially charged Iran with orchestrating and financing the attack in conjunction with Hezbollah in October 2006. However, a November 2006 article by Gareth Porter raised questions about some inconsistencies in Nisman’s report.

The main theory about Iran’s motive for ordering the bombing of the headquarters of the Jewish organization AMIA (Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina) on July 18, 1994, which killed 85 people, is that Iran wanted to retaliate against Argentina for its decision to cut off exports of nuclear materials. That motive was asserted by former Iranian intelligence officer Abdolghassem Mesbahi in a 2002 deposition and repeated in a report by the Argentine State Intelligence Service (SIDE, for Servicio de Inteligencia del Estado), in September 2002.

A related theory advanced by the prosecutors is that Iran was angry at the government of Carlos Menem for realigning its foreign policy more closely with that of the United States, for example by sending warships to the Persian Gulf during the US-led war there in 1991.

But the prosecutors’ report shows that Argentina never completely terminated its nuclear cooperation with Iran, and that the Iranian and Argentine nuclear organizations that had negotiated the original contracts were negotiating on restoration of full cooperation on all three agreements from early 1992 through 1994.

The new evidence on nuclear-technology relations between Iran and Argentina is a serious blow to the credibility of the central assertion in the indictment that [former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani and other former Iranian officials decided at a meeting on August 14, 1993, to plan the bombing of AMIA. That assertion was based entirely on the testimony of Iranian defector Abdolghassem Mesbahi, who was evidently unaware of the continued uranium exports and continuing negotiations revealed in the prosecutors’ report.

Porter concluded that “[t]he investigation of the 1994 bombing by the Argentine judiciary, which has no political independence from the executive branch, has had little credibility with the public, because of a bribe by the lead judge to a key witness and a pattern of deceptive accounts based on false testimony.”

In 2008, Nisman called for an investigation of former president Menem for allegedly obstructing the investigation during his term in office. According to the BBCin 2012, Menem, then serving as a senator, was charged by another judge in relation to the bombing case, along with the former judge Galeano, “former heads of the intelligence service, Hugo Anzorreguy and Juan Carlos Anchezar, and two commanders of the federal police.” The prosecutors said there was “evidence that the Argentine intelligence services and security forces helped cover up the tracks of local accomplices of the attackers.”

CNN reported in March 2009 that former legal secretary for Judge Juan Jose Galeano, Claudio Lifschitz, claimed “he was kidnapped and tortured by men who said they were national intelligence agents.”

Lifschitz has testified that Galeano mishandled the investigation, including allegedly making a $400,000 bribe to a key witness. Galeano was taken off the AMIA investigation in 2003 and was removed from his position as a judge in 2005.

“They started to ask about information about the SIDE (State Intelligence Secretariat) related to the AMIA attack,” Lifschitz told CNN.

“And then they asked me about cassettes of conversations between the Iranians. That shows that the SIDE doesn’t deny that they had intercepted some phone lines with the help of some judges.

“They were afraid that I had copies of these tapes and I would present them to a judge, but I told them that I don’t have any copies of the tapes.”

In 2014, La Nación reported on the suspicious circumstances surrounding the 2013 killing of an ex-SIDE agent by Buenos Aires police who allegedly had some knowledge of the tapes – Lauchón Viale, whose path, according to the newspaper, had crossed with that of Lifschitz “many times, without them ever speaking or exchanging a greeting.”

Last year, Yitzhak Aviran, Israel’s ambassador to Argentina from 1993-2000, alleged that many of those involved in the attack had been targeted by Israel. He was quoted in an AFP report as saying, “The large majority of those responsible are no longer of this world, and we did it ourselves.”

In 2013, Kirchner signed memorandum of understanding with the government of Iran regarding the AMIA incident, which set up a “truth commission” to investigate the attack. A few months later Nisman “issued a lengthy indictment accusing the Iranian regime of infiltrating several South American countries and building local intelligence gathering facilities tasked with fostering and executing terrorist attacks,” according to the Anti-Defamation League, which opposed the MOU. The truth commission effort later fell through.

Mecropress reported recently that “Nisman said that the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2013 between Argentina and Iran ‘was presented as something to help unblock the negotiations and ended up being a criminal deal of impunity which was reached once everything else was already agreed beforehand,'” adding that the agreement was “a way to introduce a false lead” in the probe. He also reportedly said that before the memorandum was approved, “Argentina’s intelligence agents told the Iranians ‘relax, good news, we have already won’.”

However, other reporting by Gareth Porter casts serious doubt upon some of the claims made by Nisman in the past. In 2008, Porter reported for The Nation that Ron Goddard, then deputy chief of the US Mission in Buenos Aires, “confirmed…that investigators found nothing linking Iran to the [AMIA] bombing. ‘The whole Iran thing seemed kind of flimsy,’ Goddard said.”

After spending several months interviewing officials at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires familiar with the Argentine investigation, the head of the FBI team that assisted it and the most knowledgeable independent Argentine investigator of the case, I found that no real evidence has ever been found to implicate Iran in the bombing. Based on these interviews and the documentary record of the investigation, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the case against Iran over the AMIA bombing has been driven from the beginning by US enmity toward Iran, not by a desire to find the real perpetrators.

In a 2013 article for IPS News, Porter wrote that “Nisman’s readiness to base the crucial accusation against Iran in the AMIA case solely on [sources from the Iranian opposition group Mujahedin E Khalq (MEK)] and his denial of their obvious unreliability highlights the fact that he has been playing a political role on behalf of certain powerful interests rather than uncovering the facts.”

The BBC also reported today that Wikileaks cables revealed a close relationship between Nisman and Washington. A U.S. lobbying group backed by the so-called vulture funds feuding with Argentina over a debt dispute also jumped on the Iran-Argentina fear-mongering bandwagon in mid-2013, right around the time Argentina approved the memorandum of understanding with Iran regarding the investigation into the attacks.

***

La Nación reported this morning that Security Minister Sergio Berni said an investigation would be carried out, but that by all indications Nisman’s death appears to have been a suicide. Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich confirmed the Security Minister’s statement and promised the full support of the president’s office in the inquiry. President Kirchner’s office also reported that Security Minister Berni had personally overseen the processing of the scene of Nisman’s death.

According to the Argentina Independent:

Viviana Fein, the prosecutor assigned to the case, confirmed that the death was caused by Nisman’s gun. She declined to offer any hypotheses regarding the death until the results of the autopsy are known later today. “I trust the Federal Police and the Coast Guard, we will work prudently and we’ll have some more details at around noon, because we still can’t confirm it was a suicide.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Héctor Timerman, who was one of the officials accused by Nisman, said upon landing at JFK airport in New York that he “laments the death of a human being”. Secretary General for the Presidency, Aníbal Fernández, said he was “shocked” by the news, and considered that “there was nothing remotely normal” about Nisman’s death. He also added that all of the prosecutor’s findings on the AMIA case should be documented within the case’s files, so his death should not be an impediment to the investigation.

The Israeli government issued a statement lamenting the death of Nisman “under tragic circumstances” and called him “a brave attorney who fought endlessly for justice”. “The State of Israel is hopeful that the Argentine authorities will continue with Nisman’s activities and put all their effort in demanding justice to those responsible for the terrorist attacks in Argentina,” added the statement.

The BBC and the Associated Press both reported that the autopsy of Nisman’s body showed “no evidence” that others were involved in his death.

As of this writing, the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires does not appear to have released a statement regarding the incident. The Argentine embassy in Washington has also been silent on the issue so far.

No one has ever been convicted for the AMIA bombing.